'Without them I'd be dead in a ditch': Vital PTSD charity for veterans facing a funding crisis

  • Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan

Over the years, British soldiers have served in some of the most dangerous places in the world. The impact on mental health can be huge and for those who return home, the transition to civilian life can be difficult.

Paul Smith joined the Navy when he was 16 and served in the Falklands war. When he returned, became dependent on alcohol, was abusive at home and regularly had breakdowns.

Paul Smith joined the Navy when he was 16 and served in the Falklands war. Credit: ITV News

It was 34 years later that he was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was a charity Combat Stress who focus on veterans' mental health that ensured Paul got the help that he needed.

"Without going to Combat Stress I'd have probably ended up in a ditch from drinking. And without their help I wouldn't have my family, I wouldn't have my daughters, my wife.

"Basically, Combat Stress gave me the tools to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You never get through PTSD, but they gave me my life back.

"I've stopped drinking, I haven't had a drink for four years and I'm not abusive."

Sue Freeth warned that the charity will only be able to help half as many people in future. Credit: ITV News

Combat Stress has been receiving around 2,000 referrals for treatment a year, but it's income has fallen from £16m this financial year down to £10m, partly due to the charity losing funding from the NHS.

This means Combat Stress won't be able to take any new cases in England and Wales.

Sue Freeth, Chief Executive for Combat Stress, told ITV News: "On the basis of the income we are currently facing for next year, we will be able to help only half of the people we've been helping and the demand for the service is growing."

Johnny Mercer.

NHS England had previously given Combat Stress £3m a year but after consulting with veterans and their families, it was decided the money would be used on different, new services for veterans instead.

Johnny Mercer, a defence minister and a former veteran himself said on Twitter: "This is a complex problem without easy solutions.

"More money than ever is being spent on veteran's mental health. But Combat Stress is an important partner and we will find a way forward together."

90% of the charity's income is now dependent on public donations and the veterans who use their services will be hoping that Combat Stress can keep going.