News Details

Course to improve care for veterans

Source: Northamptonshire Telegraph
Published: Monday 01 July, 2013

A former soldier turned psychologist has launched a new degree course in Chelmsford aimed at improving the healthcare offered to military veterans.

The Masters degree in military and veteran mental health is the first of its kind in the UK and has been set up by Anglia Ruskin University.

It will offer specialised education and training for people working with military veterans, either in the health service or within charities.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, who served in Germany and Northern Ireland with 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards in the 1970s and 1980s before becoming the Ministry of Defence's head of clinical psychology, came up with the idea.

He said: "The mental health needs of military veterans and their families receive significant attention.

"However, there is still an unmet need for a progressive course that can address education and training on issues of military and veteran mental health and social care.

"Anglia Ruskin's MSc will be delivered by experts in the field and will provide students - professionals working in the military, allied healthcare, NHS and third sector - with the knowledge that is necessary to work effectively with their military and veteran clients."

Studies have shown that about one in five veterans develop mental health problems after leaving the services. Alcohol and substance misuse are common, as is vulnerability to social exclusion, homelessness and involvement in the criminal justice system, the university said.

Risk of suicide and depression is heightened immediately after making the transition to civilian life and post-traumatic stress disorder is also common, particularly for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veterans are also much less likely than the general population to seek immediate help for their problems, on average taking 14 years to do so.

The university added that because healthcare is transferred from the MoD to the NHS when people leave the armed services, civilian mental health services are often not fully prepared for their needs.

The course, which begins in September, will cover a range of issues including the effects of traumatic exposure, adjustment to injury, and reintegration to family and civilian life.

The Department of Health, NHS, the MoD and Combat Stress, the UK's leading charity specialising in the treatment and support of veterans with mental health problems, have all been involved in developing the curriculum.

Consultant psychiatrist Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Mike Srinivasan, of the MoD, said: "The Department of Community Mental Health at Colchester Garrison have been involved with the development of this innovative and much-needed course right from the project's initial conception and looks forward to building its partnership with Anglia Ruskin University over the years to come."

Diane Palmer, service manager at Veterans First, The North Essex Veterans Service, described the launch as "exciting".

"This is a unique new course that will provide a range of professionals and clinicians with the underpinning knowledge and skills to work with our armed forces and veterans," she added.

"Those who successfully complete this course will be prepared to work at both a clinical and strategic level within specialist services."

Peter Poole, from Combat Stress, also welcomed the course saying that while the majority of the 20,000 people who leave the Armed Forces every year successfully transition to civilian life, a significant minority can face difficulties.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.