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NHS redesigns mental health service to provide specialist support to armed force veterans

The redesigned Op Courage service will focus on self-referrals and enhanced addiction support

NHS England has recently expanded its mental health service, Op Courage, to focus on specialist support to armed force veterans, reservists and service leaders experiencing mental health issues. The service was launched in 2017 to help members from the armed forces community receive treatment for psychological problems and support with housing, finances, relationships and employment.

The improvement to the health service comes after a recent NHS England survey of 3,000 veterans and serving personnel found that around 60% said they found it difficult to ask for help for mental health issues. More than half (52%) said they have, or previously had, a mental health problem.

‘The NHS Op Courage service is unique – our staff are not only highly trained clinical professionals, but they are also either ex-military or know the military culture first-hand. This sets them up to provide a non-judgmental service and build trust with those seeking help,’ said Dr Jonathan Leach OBE, NHS England associate medical director for armed forces and veterans’ health.

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The redesigned service will now focus on boosting self-referrals through awareness campaigns in the armed force community. It will also provide enhanced support and treatment for a range of addictions, such as alcohol, drug misuse and gambling in collaboration with medical professionals who have worked with the military community and armed forces charities.

‘Recognising when you need to reach out is the first hurdle and fellow veterans can help so much with this, as they’ve been through it too. I remember how hard it was adjusting to life after the military, getting to grips with civvy street after everything I went through in Afghanistan. Having a service like the Op Courage to support you is invaluable,’ said JJ Chalmers, former Royal Marine and Invictus games medallist.