Friday, 11 July 2014

#PTSD, #Isolation and #Support

There are times when we need support when it's either not available because we're not in the appropriate support pipeline or because there's no one living nearby in our limited social circles.  So what do we do?

By support needs I mean day-to-day tasks that we might need help with - eg cooking or doing something tricky in the realms of 'permitted work' where we need some guidance or a sounding board before going ahead on a certain idea or piece of work.

This support is essential to people living with chronic PTSD or any long lasting disability.

The problem is trying to find people that understand you, your disability, the task that your trying to achieve and have the time and patience to support you.  I'm lucky in that I have two people in my life that will do this for me - whether it's checking over a piece of work, a web page or a document for errors or for a reassuring voice to ensure that I'm cooking safely and turning off all my appliances afterwards.

There are also times when I may need to speak to someone and either of my friends may be unavailable and I have to rely on an organisation to help me with telephone support.

All of these avenues of communication are possible through the telephone.  You just have to make sure that you pick the right company with the right package for you.  Mine allows me to call any UK phone number for free, any time of the day.  I bought a little oven timer bell to make sure I don't go over an hour, as most companies only give you an hour free - then you have to redial the number to continue the conversation.  If you don't want a landline, there are mobile service providers that will offer you a very good package that includes free calls to any UK landline or mobile number and including free data too.  You might be able to get a good deal from these links: - or you can find your own links by seaching 'Google' for 'uk mobile phone call packages' or something similar.

Here are some phone numbers for support, some of them for civilians, some for Veterans and others for both.  I haven't personally used some of these organisations but feel free to share if you have had a bad experience with them.  If you’re having a bad episode or need help urgently, you may find help right now with some of the agencies below:

Support numbers
Childline runs a helpline for children and young
people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will
not show up on your phone bill. Tel 0800 1111

Domestic Violence Helpline
 If you find yourself in an emergency situation, for example, if you
are being subjected to physical violence, always call 999.
For confidential advice support and information, ring the
National helpline on 0808 200 0247.

Mind - a UK mental health charity
Lines are open 9am - 6pm, Monday - Friday
Tel 0300 123 3393, Email
or Text: 86463

Samaritans operate a 24-hour service available every day of
the year.  Tel 08457 90 90 90, or email

Ex Armed Forces specific support
Veterans UK (0808 1914 2 18) provides free advice on many
topics to all veterans and their families.  When the Veterans UK
helpline is closed callers can opt to be routed to the
Combat Stress or The Samaritans 24hrs help lines (UK only).

Combat Stress is a UK Veterans' mental health charity.
Helpline 0800 138 1619
General enquiries 01372 587 000

SSAFA Forcesline provide confidential telephone support on a
range of services, including financial support and emotional
support. Tel 0800 731 4880.  AWOL Helpline 01380 738137.

The Royal British Legion can help you with representation as well
as some financial assitance.  They also offer a free handy person
service for those unable to do small DIY jobs in the home.
Telephone 0808 802 8080 - 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.

I know it can be hard to get from day-to-day and not many people will be able to empathise with you or understand you ... but I hope you find some support from the options above.  Alternatively, you can go to for a larger list of support organisations.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Activity report re Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership (NV&FP) and 'Living with PTSD'.

After having served on the NV&FP since October 2013, I came to the conclusion that most of the collective don't know what networking and social policy work is.  They mistakenly assume that client referral is networking, when it is in fact a small part of the activity. 

I couldn't justify the time effort and stress of their inactivity and lack of cohesive thinking any longer and left the group this month.

It is clear that the main purpose of the group is to seek funding.

My report about the issues is below; this document will form part of my activity report from the project to Arts Council England:

Activity Report to Arts Council England  & NottinghamshireVeterans & Families Partnership

‘Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (LWPTSD) and ‘Intimacy with Plants’ (IWP) are part of a rolling programme of exhibitions with the following aims:

  • To raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
  • Educate on Intellectual Property issues and
  • Promote creative arts as a coping mechanism for disability.

One of the project activities was to engage in dialogue with mental health professionals to raise awareness of the barriers that Veterans face with regards to access to service/support provision.

The exhibitions started on 5 November 2013 and are still scheduled to appear at more venues – with the first 2015 booking having just been confirmed.

I was invited to speak at the Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership in October 2013 to raise awareness of issues that Veterans face when seeking support, as well as to provide feedback on NHS mental health service provision based upon my experiences of being a patient in the Nottinghamshire area. 

I raised awareness of a formal complaint that I had taken out against one of the adult mental health teams and the implication of their less than professional behaviour. I shared my experience of attending ‘Combat Stress’ treatment.  I shared my daily experience of living with PTSD.

The group invited me to become a member of the NV&FP.

I was a member of this group for 9 months and feel my time and energy is best spent working on my own project now.

The reasons are as follows:

  • The group (NV&FP) takes much too long to complete simple tasks (over 3 years to come up with a webpage and logo, no moving forward on group strategies associated with client care).

  • The group does not adhere to its Terms of Reference by virtue of its general lack of action.

  • The most important action of such a group – networking and sharing information was taken off the main agenda and became an after meeting activity – losing effectiveness as most of the people attending the meeting would have left by this stage.
  • Seeking funding is, in my opinion, the over riding objective of this group.

The group is saturated with NHS staff from a team that is already supposedly stretched.  As a former community service manager, I find this irresponsible when I hear senior executives complain about dwindling funding and no guarantees of posts being funded in the next fiscal year.  I would suggest a more responsible use of staff deployment and time management.  Issues should be discussed at their own team meetings with the briefed attending member relaying the team views and reporting back on the group’s work.  There is also another issue with regards to numbers of NHS staff – if there was ever a contentious issue that had to be voted upon, the vote could be swayed in favour of the requirements or result sought by the NHS which might not necessarily be for the benefit of its service users and would, to say the least, be undemocratic.

I ran the NV&FP Action Group’s first meeting and facilitated a group discussion about the aims of the action group – which was only attended by 6 people out of a possible 60 people.  This group was to actually achieve tasks that the main group seemed unable to act upon.  Although different words were used, the activity role of the group is identical to that of the main group which begs the question - if the action group are to do all the work and operate with the same terms of reference … what is the main group there for?  What is its role?  What are the participant groups there to achieve?  I strongly suggest that the NV&FP go back to being one group and start working on a wider range of issues together as per their terms of reference.

In terms of networking and Social Policy work, ‘Living with PTSD’ has achieved far more on its own than working with the NV&FP.  I can’t justify the time, the additional stress, frustration and anger generated through working with an ineffective collective.  Only 3 of the groups in the collective actively engaged in some form of networking with my project that has actually benefited people suffering with PTSD.  I have liaised with Mayors and Councillors in the areas where the exhibitions have taken place to raise awareness of the issues raised and to find out what more can and is being done to help Veterans and other people living with PTSD.  The response from officials towards the project has been positive to date.  Their feedback needs to be further researched and the results will appear on  Combat Stress and Help for Heroes continually promised to support this project but failed to do so.

I joined the group to raise awareness of issues from a disabled veteran’s perspective and to network with the group which I have done by setting up a relevant website and sharing the details of the other groups that can provide support to Veterans and their families and through relaying personal experience.  I listened to comments that were being voiced on various issues by the NV&FP and provided solutions and support where possible through the sharing of information via  I will continue to list your individual groups on my site as sources of support.

I wanted this group to help bring about changes and improvement in these specific areas:

  1. To ensure that NHS patients transferring into their geographical area of care with up-to-date medical reports (less than 3 months old) are not re-diagnosed or re-assessed.  Instead they should be referred to a practitioner for continued care as soon as practicably possible.  It should be the responsibility of their practitioner to assess their needs and take appropriate action.  The NHS can’t continually complain about a lack of resources and then waste staff hours carrying out duplicate assessments for transferring patients.  You’re all NHS staff and you’re qualified to the same governing bodies when it comes to role dependent mental health related care.
  2. That NHS professionals had a document providing a ‘good practice’ guide relevant to Veterans with PTSD.
  3. To ensure that NHS management representatives from the other mental health teams in the area are a part of this group as they have Veterans referred to them directly from GPs.
  4. To continually raise awareness of Veterans’ issues and service provision options to GPs.  The feedback is that the majority of GPs that are in touch with Veterans are unaware of the routes of support available to them and that some don’t care or aren’t interested in mental issues and will issue a prescription rather than take the time to identify a route towards recovery or coping with the condition with the patient’s understanding and agreement.
  5. To provide other avenues of direct NHS led care and treatment not just relying on CBT and EMDR.  People are different and they have different needs.  The mental health profession is relying too heavily upon these forms of treatment, along with pharmacology.  The road back from pharmacology can be extremely difficult and for many, impossible, once a person’s brain chemistry has been altered for a prolonged period of time.  One of the oldest forms of treatment for someone with a mental health problem is to be able to sit somewhere with someone they can trust and to be heard without being judged.  The NHS don’t generally encourage this form of treatment as it negatively impacts on statistics and funding issues.

  1. The provision of a holistic source of referral for different treatments/service providers (statutory, voluntary and private) that can assist people with PTSD, as well as general information exchange and networking, particularly via the web and social media … and the library service as a means of assistance for non-IT literate people seeking help with PTSD.
  2. The recognition that for many ‘recovery’ isn’t possible and that the best case scenario is ‘Living with PTSD’ and understanding that to care for yourself requires a lot of time and energy.

  1. Where a complaint is made against a statutory service and is proved or accepted, that the issue(s) are then addressed with the practitioner/service representative responsible rather than being swept under the rug by the service manager.  Inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour can have dire consequences for people that are vulnerable owing to mental health problems … this can and sometimes does end with the loss of human life, whether through suicide or other actions.  As a service provider, you have a responsibility to try to ensure that this never happens.

I request that the group actually work on the issues listed above, rather than just seeking funding.  The foundation needs to be solid before you build further services upon it.
Feedback from people living with PTSD that I have spoken to at the various exhibition/workshop venues in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire suggests that there is still a lot of ignorance from statutory agency employees about PTSD and how to treat or communicate effectively with suffers without triggering their condition.  Statutory agencies were identified as the Ambulance Service, Police Service, Social Services, GPs, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and NHS service managers.  When it comes to highly motivated veterans with the ability to do physical harm to people, the implications of triggering their condition can be dire.  People that are responsible for the provision of care to these people need to be aware of this and take responsibility for their own actions and behaviour when dealing with people with mental health problems … especially Veterans.

My thanks to those of you have that have networked with me and to those of you that actively work with Veterans and other people with PTSD in a responsible and caring way.  I hope that you are the majority in the equation. 

If any service/organisation/community group would like to have a presentation or discussion about the issues raised with a view to improving services for people living with PTSD, or to understand what it feels like to live with PTSD, please get in touch.
Villayat ‘Wolf’ Sunkmanitu

Wolf Photography

Email wolf (at)

There was a bit of discussion around points 1,2 & 8.  Some parts of this discussion were addressed by a document produced by myself and 2 members of the NHS.  Members of the group dismissed the aims of the document on the basis of there being no evidence to support the necessity for a change in policy.  The group's chair stated that the NV&FP was not the body to further this issue to the NHS hierarchy.

I disagree.  I also believe that you don't need evidence by way of complaints to plug a hole in policy and practice when an issue has been raised.  The role of a good manager is to look to continually improve upon existing services and to maximise their effectiveness ... particularly when dealing with vulnerable people in our societies.

Please feel free to share this post and to add your thoughts.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu.

Council Tax reductions for people with mental and/or physical disabilities (England & Wales only)

There are two forms of discount available for disabled people:

Disabled band reduction scheme

This scheme makes sure disabled people don’t pay more Council Tax if they need:
  • a bigger property
  • to adapt their home because of their disability
The property must be the main home of at least 1 disabled person. They can be an adult or a child and don’t have to be responsible for paying the Council Tax.
The property must have 1 or more of:
  • an extra bathroom, kitchen or other room for the disabled person
  • extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair

Other Council Tax reductions

People who are severely mentally impaired and some live-in carers are exempt when working out Council Tax.  Some people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will qualify under the 'Severe Mental Impairment' exemption - please be aware that this isn't restricted to people with learning difficulties etc.

 To find out if you qualify, please contact your local Council Tax office via the link below, tell the officers about your circumstances and ask them if you qualify.  People living in Scotland may be entitled to an equivalent scheme - please check with your Local Authority.

Good luck with your application.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 24 March 2014

Looking back to the time of my diagnosis ...

There are many of you that live with PTSD, that don't have any support or a confirmation of your diagnosis.  There are many reasons why people don't seek help:  issues of stigma, loss of control over your daily life, being misunderstood, being vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace, being vulnerable in other areas of your life.

It's a difficult thing to walk into a stranger's office and ask for help when you don't know how to voice the pain being held in check inside of you ... especially when you don't know the extent of the damage within yourself.  How do you try to voice the effects of a condition that can affect your life in so many different ways - depending on the circumstances or the environment that you find yourself in.

How do you explain to a stranger why seeing something on the box or at the movies triggers a sort of pain that goes to the core of you and drives down even deeper into realms of consciousness that you didn't even know existed?  Or how a song or a smell can instantly take you away somewhere in your unguarded moments?

More and more Veterans are coming to notice because of PTSD, yet it still seems that their referral and diagnosis takes place because of some other incident.  Rare is the Veteran that walks in and says, 'Please help me - something's wrong with me because of my military service'.

I've been asking about the hurdles faced by current Veterans returning from service and there's no difference to the core issues.  We're programmed from basic training to survive and carry on doing what we have to do, regardless off the difficulties that we find ourselves in.  I would say that that is the overlying reason why so many Veterans won't come forward for support and treatment.  Perhaps people will think less of them if they come asking for help.  These people that stood and fought in difficult situations, that were relied upon to do their utmost in achieving their objectives ... find it hard to go and ask for the help they need.

Some  elements of the system throw hurdles in their path as well though.  Some times they're spoken to in ways that strip away any shred of dignity that they have left ... or worse ... they're spoken to in ways that trigger their condition  - turning them into walking time bombs ready to explode.

Seeking help is hard work - to lower your defences enough to allow someone a glimpse of your pain is a risk ... but a necessary one.

I still remember the first time that I went to 'Combat Stress' for treatment.  I was sat in my car outside the big metal gates ... and there was a battle going on inside of me.  Part of me wanted to get the hell away from the place while another part of me wanted the help.  Luckily the staff there are used to dealing with people like us.

When I started my therapy (which wasn't either CBT or EMDR as I'd already had those from the NHS locally), I couldn't talk to my therapist there.  I couldn't sit in an office with her.  I remember this big tree that had a little hollow in the trunk on the grounds and I would leave her office and head straight for the tree and just curl up in there ... unable to voice my feelings.  My therapist and her colleagues were gentle and patient with me though and allowed me the space and time that I needed to open up.  It took a few short visits to be able to talk about my experiences ...but it was worth it.

In my particular case, I know that recovery isn't possible ... but I have learned to live with it.  If learning to live with PTSD is your worst case scenario ... isn't it better than suffering in silence, alone?  And what if there's the option of recovery for you?  Isn't it worth trying if you could find your way back to your family and loved ones?

Nowadays, there are Veterans involved with many health service providers, engaging with them to help them to understand why Veterans' needs are so different in certain ways.  We're all reaching out in the hope that you'll be able to walk forward and get the help that you want or need ... because no one will understand the pain that you are going through better than someone that's been there.

The door's opening - please walk through it.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 21 February 2014

Update from Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership (NVFP) meeting 19 Feb 2014

Before I write my report I need to make a point about my involvement in this group.

I see my role as taking issues forward and contributing towards the involvement of care programmes for Veterans and civilians.  It's important to understand that this group also looks at the issues of partners and dependents of Veterans - which includes loved ones acting as carers.

I will share information here to keep you aware of developments and issues that arise.  I am not a politician ... and have absolutely no interest in becoming one.  The point of sharing the information here is to give YOU a voice.  If you feel that you're not happy about something or if you can come up with ideas and initiatives to help us to achieve the key objectives ... or if you feel there is a better way to do something ... then please comment on the blog.  If you have any concerns about being identified, please contact me via Facebook on and I can keep your identity confidential and still pass on your contribution towards the work of the group.  This initiative cannot succeed without your involvement.  Your contribution will help us to get the issues right ... but most importantly it may go a long way towards lessening your suffering as well as those people coming down the line after us that are carrying invisible wounds.

Thank you.

There was clear frustration expressed by most of the Voluntary Veteran led groups in attendance.  There was a general feeling that we were taking one step forwards and two steps back.  We felt it was inexcusable that the group has been meeting for three years or so now and that there was still not any branding, leaflets, posters or a website that is publicly viewable.

We also felt that this was now an NHS led group facilitating NHS funding objectives rather than seeing to the holistic issues surrounding the care and well being of Veterans.

The Chair's response was as follows:
He felt our frustration and understood our concerns.  The group is not NHS specific in any way.  If we want items discussed, we should contact the group secretary and have them placed on the agenda.  He recognised that some of us wanted this group to be able to lobby the NHS and the Government for change but that this wasn't the remit of this group. 

The Chair made it clear that all of the partner organisations in the NVFP will be eligible for some funding for their own projects.

Re-diagnosis of Patients transferring from other counties
I've asked for this item to be placed on the agenda.  I and some of my colleagues will be making it clear that it's not necessary where a patient transfers with up-to-date medical reports, as it's a very distressing thing to go through when you've already had all your scars opened up for the original diagnosis.  It's one thing to build up a relationship between patient and practitioner ... it takes time and effort on both sides.  To force someone to go through it all again with a stranger is emotional rape.

If patients are not transferring with up-to-date reports as a matter of course then this is something that the NHS needs to pick up as a National issue ASAP.  Transfer of care for long term ill patients depends on clear communication between the different services caring for the patient.

Guidelines for Interviewing Veterans
Two group members from the Criminal Justice System and myself were meeting and working on a document.  The purpose of the meeting was to identify ways to facilitate a mental health review appointment for patients who are ex-service personnel with a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This included pre-meeting preparation, the review and subsequent follow up appointments.  The issue has had no further work done on it for the last two months or so.  I've asked for this to be an agenda item for the next meeting.

Organisational Updates
Organisational Updates are back on the agenda in a formal way and will be minuted but will take place after the main meeting.  The Chair said that he didn't have the time to sit in that part of the meeting because of other commitments.

What came out of this part of the meeting was that we need a lobbying group that is independent of the NVFP, so that we can push certain issues forward.

I felt that we could use Nottingham City Council to produce our own leaflets and have them fund our printing costs.  To that end I've asked all the groups that would like a presence on the poster to email me a logo, email address, weblink and telephone number together with a brief sentence about what they offer.  I'll design it and take it to the next meeting as an agenda item if I have their requested data.

There was some discussion around why Veteran's don't access services for themselves as soon as they get a hint of something being wrong within themselves.

The reasons we came up with were as follows:
Some are in denial of their own problems
Veteran's are used to being the dependable ones at the sharp end and coping
People don't always understand a Veteran's language (service slang)
Veterans can swear a lot when talking about issues that they find painful, this can be a barrier for some GPs
They're programmed to keep going until they drop
They have little trust of a society that sent them to war and then discarded them when they came 'home'
They don't fit into 'civvy street', people don't understand their their ways
Service life is black and white - civvy street is shades of grey
Being made to feel vulnerable and then mistreated
Many GPs are ignorant of mental health issues
Some GP's attitudes are appalling towards people with PTSD or other mental health issues
There is a lot of stigma attached to people with mental health problems and it ruins their difficult lives

We discussed how we could make GPs  aware.  A couple of the groups have been trying to make contact with GP's Surgery Managers over the years and have never received replies to their communications.  I feel that we should mail shot them carefully in a recorded way and build up an image of their attitudes based on their responses or lack of them.  I would go so far as having a recommendation list based on their responses as to whether they are capable of looking after the needs of people with mental health problems.

The NVFP have a link in already and can start the ball rolling on raising more awareness with GPs.  I also feel that we should be targeting Patient Liaison Groups as well as GPs and practice managers.  we may achieve better results.

Future posts
As well as continuing to report on the progress of the group, I'll be writing specific blog posts on the other organisations that form the NVFP, as well as any key documents, in the hope that you or a Veteran may find the information useful ... or that you have a template for beginning your own group in your area.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership - Terms of Reference

Part of my work is to be involved with agencies that provide care for people Living with PTSD.  My involvement isn't limited just to the care of Veterans but this particular groups aims are.  I felt that it would be useful to start sharing certain documents so that you can be aware of what's going ... and perhaps share ideas that you may find useful to adopt for other groups in other areas.

Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership Group Terms of Reference Draft v1.1

1.      Introduction

The Nottinghamshire Veterans Partnership group is hosted by Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust. It is a forum where all organisations that have an interest in Veterans integrated mental, physical and social care can meet to form a strategic alliance to share information and support a virtual team approach to comprehensive care aimed at ex-service personnel and their families.

Membership of the group is underscored by the commitment by the partner organisations to sign up and fully support the NHS armed services covenant.

The purpose of the group is to:

·         Form a strategic alliance of Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City statutory and third sector providers of services who focus on the physical, mental health and social care needs of ex-service personnel and their families.

·         Support the development of an ex-service personnel’s health and social care virtual team.

·         Steer the implementation/use of resources specifically commissioned to support the development of pathways and support for ex-service personnel and their families.

·         Provide a focal point for discussion and support of the strategic development of services and care pathways aimed at improving health and social care outcomes for ex-service personnel and their families.

·         Provide a space/forum for local providers to network, share good practice, and enhance governance and quality to support an integrated service offer for the benefit of ex-service personnel and their families.

2.      Membership

·         The group will be chaired by the Clinical Director of Specialist Services for Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust.

 And will include in its membership representatives from:

·         Royal British Legion.
·         Combat Stress.
·         Criminal Justice agencies including probation and magistrates.
·         Ex-service personnel who have experience of using services.
·         Nottingham Healthcare NHS Trust Service Managers.
·         NHCT Veterans peer support staff from a broad range of trust services.
·         SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens’ Families Association)
·         Forces for Their Future
·         Representatives from Armed Force establishments in Nottinghamshire City and County
·         National Veterans Mental Health Network
·         Administrative Support provided by PA to Clinical Director.
·         DCMH (Chilwell)

By Invite as required:

·         Trust Communications team
·         Any other representatives deemed appropriate to support the business of the group.

3.      Quoracy

The group shall be considered quorate where 40% of the membership is present and this includes:

Chair (or nominated deputy).

4.      Meeting frequency

The group will meet monthly. Dates will be confirmed annually.

5.      Objectives

·       Agree strategic priorities for the partnership.
·       Develop and disseminate information on integrated care pathways for ex-service personnel and their families.
·       Share good practice.
·       Develop a programme of work to be shared by group members.
·       Support the development of the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre in Nottinghamshire (DNRC).

Support and dissemination:
Ensure that the work of the group is adequately supported and effectively communicated.

Review Date:
To be reviewed annually.
DM 01/14

Background ...

I felt that it would be useful to enter the last PTSD related blog entry from the main project page as a bit of background re this particular part of the project.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership ...

Liaising with Statutory and Voluntary Agencies
One of the objectives of the 'Living with PTSD' project is to get involved with the NHS and other organisations/companies to help make changes in some areas of policy and to raise awareness of what PTSD feels like for Veterans from the perspective of the Veteran seeking help.

To further the objectives laid out above, I was invited onto the Nottinghamshire Veterans and Families Partnership (NVFP) last October (2013) but I haven't had a chance to report on its activities yet because I've had my hands full taking care of the exhibitions.

So, for those of you interested in Veterans affairs, I'll be sharing progress reports from the group.

Background of the NVFP
The group's been meeting for three years or so and has representatives from Combat Stress, The Royal British Legion, SSAFA, local regiments and Cadet groups, the Prison Service, Probation Service, Nottinghamshire Constabulary, The Courts, The Service and Veterans Personnel Agency, The NHS and other local organisations.  I'll post the groups terms of reference later.

Updates re issues raised
In October 2013 I gave a brief presentation about my experiences, the work of Wolf Photography and made some recommendations for change in the way some of the NHS staff conduct themselves when delivering mental health care/support.  I also raised my concerns about the fact that people transferring into this County's care shouldn't have to go through the hoop of being re-diagnosed when they have documentary evidence to support their transfer of care.  Forcing people to go through a further diagnosis is like being emotionally raped.  It's unhealthy, causes further scarring and destroys coping mechanisms.

A working party was set up consisting of three people to look at providing a document of guidance to all mental health professionals in the local NHS Trust.  The draft document has been compiled and we're waiting for the group to adopt it and make it available to trust staff.

Nothing has been mentioned about re-diagnosis of transferring patients yet and the issue seems to have been swept under the rug. The NHS always seem to be crying about a lack of resources.  It would therefore seem sensible to not waste time and resources by re-diagnosing patients that have been under the care of similarly qualified professionals in other areas of the country.  The implications of pushing Veterans with PTSD into opening up about their feelings and symptoms, when they're not ready to do so, is that you risk arming a ticking time bomb that can explode in the worst possible way ... the results of which could be physical violence or suicide.

On a positive note, Nottinghamshire Police have flicked the switch on their system to identify Veterans that come to their attention as a result of incidents.  The aim is to provide avenues of support for Veterans should they need it.

One of the most beneficial aspects of this group are the 'Organisational Updates'.  It's where we get to find out what initiatives the other groups are working on and share that news on our own networks, thus helping the news to go further.  There were a couple of interesting items at the last meeting but Organisational Updates have been changed and shifted so that they're no longer part of the main meeting.  I tried to find out why but was ignored by the group Chair (a reaction that would have dire consequences with some Veterans).  I'll be bringing the issue up at the next meeting later this month. To see if we can have it placed back on the main agenda.  If we can't, there's no point in being there, as it will just be an unbalanced token group to satisfy NHS bosses rather than a balanced group that is supposed to be forming a pathway to benefit Veterans and their dependents.

Allied to the last paragraph is the issue of networking information about related and relevant issues through social media networking.  It's a fantastic, cost effective way to share information and needs to be done on a local level by all the agencies/groups involved.  From what I've seen so far, it seems to be smaller projects that are sharing local advice and information.

Funding the NHS Mental Health Services and Identifying Veterans' Needs
At the last meeting the group was steered in the direction of funding.  It was suggested that if what the groups seeks to achieve is successful, we'll need more funding to provide the service.

However, awareness was raised of some issues:

Most Veterans access appropriate mental health support as a result of their coming to notice for some other problem.  In my case it was a serious Road Traffic Accident, for others it might be a relationship breakdown or perhaps an issue of bullying or harassment at work (there are many more reasons).  If my GP wasn't switched on and hadn't recognised my symptoms and then made the appropriate referral ... I would probably still be living in ignorance of the fact that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Group discussion
The following information was shared and corroborated by other members of the group:

Veterans, generally speaking, will not go to a GP and say 'Help, I have PTSD', or 'Help, I think I have problems after serving in the armed forces'.  They're conditioned to survive and carry on until they drop.

The majority of GPs are ignorant of mental health issues and this needs to change as GPs are the people that can make referrals to other services through existing funding streams.

Some serious effort needs to be put into identifying why Veterans aren't accessing appropriate services, rather than seeking funding for a purpose that can't be realised, only to have that money moved to a different budget when it isn't being used for the target group.

The group have had a website authorised for their use.  I'm hoping that some content will be agreed upon at the next meeting, as there's no reason why it can't go live to provide some basic information to Veterans and their families.  It can be updated and adapted as other needs are identified.

Stigma is another serious consideration and one that the NHS mental health teams in Cornwall took very seriously; to the end that mental and physical health records were kept separate.  When I asked practitioners there about the issue I was told that some staff, including senior managers, were judgemental about employees with mental health problems, so the records were kept separate to protect people, employees and the public from those that may seek to stigmatise or discriminate against them on the grounds of mental health disabilities.

That's about it for this update.  I hope that you have found it useful and informative. Next time I hope to provide some actual ways to access support, apart from the general route of GPs.  You can find some basic information and assistance on my website under 'Help' and 'PTSD'.

If you'd like to know more about how PTSD can feel, please pop along to one of my rolling exhibitions.  You can see the activity schedule on

All the best

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu