The demand for mental health support among veterans in Wales is on the rise, with more than three-quarters of veterans reporting experiencing at least one military trauma, according to Veterans NHS Wales. Referrals for veterans with mental health problems have been increasing year-on-year, although the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on referrals this year. Homelessness among veterans is also a pressing issue, prompting a charity to convert an old nightclub into flats for homeless veterans. The Welsh and UK governments have invested in support services for veterans, including specialized mental health support and initiatives to address veteran homelessness.
Charity Links Combined Forces is among the organizations offering mental health support to veterans in Wales. They currently assist around 150 veterans in Llanelli, providing drop-in sessions and coffee mornings. Andrew McDonald-Rice, a project assistant at the charity and a veteran himself, highlights that more veterans are seeking support now and that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often takes time to develop. He acknowledges the challenges veterans face in finding help in Wales, with many small charities operating independently.
Andrew shares his personal experience of struggling with mental health issues after leaving the armed forces and the initial lack of support he received. He stresses the importance of addressing mental health concerns early on and highlights the crucial role of housing and benefits support for veterans transitioning to civilian life. While many veterans experience symptoms of PTSD due to military trauma, depression and anxiety are also common.
Help for Homeless Veterans UK is another charity that is concerned about the high number of veterans facing homelessness. They are working on converting an old nightclub into flats to provide housing for homeless veterans in Llanelli. Jordan Davies, an electrician involved in the project, talks about the difficulties veterans encounter when transitioning to civilian life, including limited job prospects and the pressure of starting a family. He emphasizes that many veterans are reluctant to ask for help due to pride and hopes to encourage them to seek support.
The Welsh government acknowledges its commitment to providing mental health support for veterans through funding Veterans NHS Wales and establishing a Veterans Trauma Network. They have also launched a scheme to make GP practices more veteran-friendly. The UK government, responsible for defense, has implemented various support initiatives for veterans and their families, including efforts to end veteran homelessness and funding for organizations that provide qualifications and training to aid veterans in their transition into employment. Both governments recognize the importance of addressing the mental health and housing needs of veterans in Wales.