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Talking about how we feel can be one of the hardest things we do: Iain George blog

Iain George, Retired Army Major & Director of Support at Stoll talks about the NHS Veterans support.

Talking about how we feel can be one of the hardest things we do. Why is that? For those of us who have served in the Armed Forces, we are used to taking instructions, organising logistics and getting the job done. We are used to operating in extremely challenging situations but many of us find it difficult to express ourselves, to offload and to share our emotions.

Getting our emotions out is now recognised as vital to our health and emotional wellbeing. At a conference at Kings College London recently, I listened as ex-Servicemen and women discussed their experiences with Prince Harry. One recalled how she had not been able to tell her husband about what she had witnessed in Service and the effect it had on her; another explained the impact of losing two friends in Afghanistan and how he lost his sight.

All the participants said the same thing: find people you can talk to so that you can share your emotions. I am pleased the NHS is now stepping up professional support for Veterans and Service personnel through its new mental health service which launches this month. Giving everyone the opportunity to talk and access professional mental health support has to be an important step forward.

In my experience, it’s vital we identify the people who are likely to struggle before they leave the Armed Forces and so it will be incumbent on the Brigades and other parts of the Forces to work effectively with the NHS so that the right people get the support they need. Most people who leave the Armed Forces transition successfully into civilian life. Many enjoy a stable home life and get a job that reflects their skills. But, as we know, some people struggle – and it’s these people that we support at Stoll. It’s good to see the new Veterans’ Gateway now in operation; this one-stop shop will help Service personnel know where to go for advice and support if they need it. This should help prevent Veterans becoming homeless as the Gateway will refer people to organisations like Stoll which can help find suitable accommodation for people. We know that if people have a home and advice on getting a job in the civilian world, they are far more likely to transition effectively. The anxiety and trauma that so many people go through tends to be exacerbated by instability and being isolated.

We cannot take away the combat experiences people have had – but by offering tailored support to meet people’s individual needs, Veterans can be supported to lead fulfilling independent lives outside the Forces.