New free support service launched for veterans, serving personnel and their families
UK servicemen and women, veterans and their families will, from today, have access to specialised help from the award-winning online support network - Big White Wall.
This is a further commitment from the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence - in a partnership with Help for Heroes - to support the mental health needs of the Armed Forces community.
The website, www.bigwhitewall.com, is a pioneering online wellbeing service, staffed by professional counsellors, that has already helped many other people. The government has committed £250,000 to fund a one-year pilot of the Big White Wall online support network specifically for serving personnel, veterans and their families. This is supported by a commitment of £100,000 from Help for Heroes for the first year with additional funding after this.
Serving personnel, veterans and their families can access the 24/7 service for free. Amongst other services, Big White Wall users can chat anonymously to others who may have gone through similar experiences, with a team of specially trained counsellors always online to offer support.
Health Minister Simon Burns said:
“We are determined to do what is best for our Armed Forces, their families and veterans. Even though the vast majority of service personnel make the transition to civilian life successfully, a small number suffer problems as a result of their service. We have a duty to look after them and their families.
“The Big White Wall will be an innovative way for them to access help anonymously and reinforces the government’s commitment to support the health needs of those who have given so much for this country and the families that support them.”
The Department of Health has also launched an e-learning package it has funded for GPs so they can better identify and support veterans and their families.
The course was developed by the Royal College for General Practitioners (RCGP) as part of plans to improve veterans’ mental health services. It will raise awareness with GPs of the need to ensure that those seriously injured when discharged from the Armed Forces continue to receive the best possible care. It will also ensure that GPs are able to offer the right support to families of those currently serving or who are veterans.
Health Minister Simon Burns said:
“The e-learning course for GPs will ensure that GPs are able to offer the best possible service to veterans and their families, giving them the best treatment and experience possible.”
The Department of Health has been working closely with the NHS, service charities, the Ministry of Defence and others to deliver the recommendations made by Dr Andrew Murrison MP in his report, ‘Fighting Fit - a mental health plan for servicemen and veterans’. Today’s announcement builds on the 24-hour mental health helpline with Combat Stress and Rethink (0800 138 1619) launched in March and continuing work in increasing the mental health capability for veterans within the NHS in England. As part of the Government’s new mental health strategy, No Health Without Mental Health, over £7 million in additional funding has been made available over the next four years to help ensure that veterans with mental health problems get the very best care.
In May 2011 the government published the first tri-service Armed Forces Covenant which outlines the moral obligation that exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces.
Andrew Robathan, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, said:
“When mental health problems arise, early detection and access to clinical and support services make a big difference. The provision of the Big White Wall is yet another tool that will provide further support for those in need.
“Stigma is just one of the many concerns and barriers that prevent our Servicemen from asking for help. The provision of an online social resource that removes some of the natural obstacles makes good sense - particularly for today’s socially-networked generation.”
Dr Andrew Murrison MP said:
“It is great that our Armed Forces community, including their families, now have access to this online early intervention service - giving them another place to turn to for support.”
Jenny Hyatt, CEO and Founder of Big White Wall said:
“We are absolutely delighted to be working with the Government and Help for Heroes to provide safe anonymous support to the men and women of our Armed Forces, veterans and their families who would otherwise suffer in silence.”
Bryn Parry, CEO and co-founder, Help for Heroes said:
“Mental wellbeing is a difficult subject for many to discuss. With the increase of tours and the level of mental stress experienced it is vital that we have the correct services in place to give our boys and girls the best help available for their mental wounds, as well as their physical. We are delighted to be supporting Big White Wall with their safe, supported and anonymous community and hope it will encourage more service personnel to reach out when they are feeling troubled.”
Earlier this year the Government unveiled a new 24-hour freephone helpline number, 0800 138 1619, to help veterans and their families access expert advice from people trained and experienced in dealing with ex-Service men and women and their often complex mental health needs.
The helpline is supported by a range of psychological therapies that veterans and serving personnel experiencing mental health problems can request to help them improve their mental health and wellbeing. The £250,000 for Big White Wall forms part of a £7 million pound investment over four years to improve health in the serving and veteran populations. The funding includes the e-learning package for GPs.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. For more information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
2. The Big White Wall (www.bigwhitewall.com) service for veterans, serving personnel and their families is being officially launched on Wednesday 14 September and will be evaluated after 12 months.
3. The Big White Wall project is being funded in partnership with Help for Heroes.
4. The e-learning package is being funded by DH but developed and marketed by the RCGP: keeping it consistent with the format of other RCGP e-courses will ensure that GPs find it both appealing and user-friendly.
5. The e-learning package will form part of the suite of online training products accessible to all GPs who are members of the RCGP.
6. The e-learning package will help GPs to gain a good baseline of knowledge of some of the specific healthcare needs of a group which has traditionally been hard for them to reach
7. GPs who complete the course will be more likely to be able to identify a veteran and address their needs in a way which is appropriate to them.
8. The 24-hour helpline service enables veterans and their families to access expert advice and support 24 hours a day. Callers have access via the freephone number 0800 138 1619. This is being run by leading mental health helpline charity Rethink, under the direction of Combat Stress. It is a 12 month pilot and will be evaluated after this time.
9. For serving personnel, TRIM (Trauma Risk Management) is now widely used in operational environments. It is a peer-led support system making it easier to identify those at risk, and to reduce the stigma sometimes attached to mental health problems. TRIM-trained personnel lead discussions about traumatic events and encourage their colleagues to talk about their experiences.
10. MoD deploys uniformed Field Mental Health Teams (FMHT) to provide professional care and treatment on the frontline.
11. Away from the frontline, MoD provides community-based out-patient mental health care through our military Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH), and in-patient care, for the relatively small numbers who need it, is provided regionally in specialised psychiatric units under a contract with a partnership of eight NHS Trusts.
12. MoD complements NHS services by providing a Medical Assessment Programme for all veterans with operational service since 1982 and by funding some treatment provided by the mental health charity Combat Stress for mental health conditions caused by service.
13. www.bigwhitewall.com works in partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust to offer a range of services for improving mental health and wellbeing.