1. ITV Report

New mental health service for veterans

A former soldier, who's suffered post traumatic stress disorder is welcoming a new mental health service for veterans Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

A former soldier, who's suffered post traumatic stress disorder after serving in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, is welcoming a new mental health service for veterans.

The Veterans' Wellbeing Assessment and Liaison Service (VWALS) will provide a single point of access for former servicemen and women in the North East who need support.

Richard Blackburn, from Cramlington, served in Northern Ireland as a teenager and later in Bosnia. He says what he witnessed left him mentally scarred.

After a number of years struggling to adjust to civilian life, and at one point even attempting to take his own life, he eventually found the support he needed.

He is welcoming the launch of the new NHS phone and e-mail help desk, which coincides with Armed Forces Day tomorrow.

Richard said: "I didn't know where to start when it came to seeking help and it took me a long time to find a service which worked for me."

"Just having one number to contact will make things much easier. I think VWALS is a fantastic idea. I would encourage anyone in the North East who has been in the armed forces to contact VWALS if they are worried about their mental health."

According to The Royal British Legion, there are about 200 thousand veterans in the North East. Around 5000 are likely to have post traumatic stress disorder and up to 30 thousand are likely to have some form mental health issue.

The new telephone and internet service is being run by two health trusts. Consultant Clinical Psychologist Symon Day says it can be contacted by telephoning 0191 441 5974 or e-mailing vwals@nhs.net.