It’s been a busy time since before Christmas in my house with a trip to New York to speak for the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Unit and the New York Association of Hostage Negotiators and the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force. This month I’m speaking as part of the Seton Hall School of Law in Newark’s Spring 18 Crisis Negotiation Course, to talk about hostage survival.
We also sold our house and found a new one just before I left for New York, so straight after Christmas and New Year, it was all hands on deck to pack up the house ready to move on the 19th January so it’s been a tad crazy, to say the least.
In amongst all this, I have been discussing, planning and beginning the creation of two new initiatives with a very good friend of mine and fellow psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, David Bellamy, read all about his work here: www.davidbellamy.org
Through David, we have connected with three former Generals; Peter Currie, John McColl, and Andrew Graham. We also have onboard former Colonel David Richmond CBE who is about to finish working as Recovery Director at Help 4 Heroes and chairman of the Contact Group.
The first initiative is to update the working structure of the military charity sector. At present it is unregulated, there are no minimum standards of operation required for start-up and ongoing and this has lead to many people being neglected, ignored and falling by the wayside. Over the last ten years, these are the people I have treated for PTSD and all it’s associated conditions and this working group that has come together is in complete agreement that things must change. The irony is that the system is not failing people because of a lack of funding, it is failing them because there is far too much bureaucracy, red tape, and BS.
I am not by any means saying that it’s all bad, there are some great people doing great work for many people, however, as with any system there is always room for improvement and it is now time to implement changes that mean more people can benefit from those positive changes.
Some of the changes being discussed are:
- a national standard on military charities that require them to furnish proof of certain minimum standards and accessibility in return for which they become approved on a national list.
- sharing of resources, information, and learning because at present this does not happen. There are 350+ military charities and mostly working in isolation which is crazy considering what could be achieved with total collaboration and cooperation. This would entail national sharing of resources, treatment, response and technical ability.
- run both initiatives as a not-for-profit organisation
The second initiative which has been easier to get going is a national free phone number for serving and veterans to access advice, help, and guidance on mental health issues. Ironically, while I was looking into setting something like this up, Lord Dannatt wrote an article in the Daily Mail on 14th January, you can read the full article here, Lord Dannatt’s article in the Daily Mail
In the article, he states that the government had declined the option to set up a 24/7 mental health helpline for serving personnel because it would not be cost-effective. The outcome of their assessment of needs concluded that it would require 40 therapists, cost £2m and attract less than 50 calls per year. This does not make sense because if they needed 40 therapists then they would be expecting far more than 50 calls a year surely?
My own research into costs showed that it is cheap to get started and can be increased as demand requires, so we have set up a freephone number 0800 6890864 for all serving and veterans to call should they have mental health concerns for themselves or someone they know. The company we chose to provide the phone service has given us 90 days free trial and then its £24.99 +VAT per month, we have two therapists available at present and we are building a list of volunteers to help as demand grows. So the cost is far from prohibitive as the government suggested.
Our aim for this is to provide unbiased, impartial, confidential, free advice, guidance and help for people serving in the British Armed Forces and veterans with mental health issues. We no longer want people to feel ashamed, afraid, embarrassed about asking for help, and as we are not connected with the MoD or government in any way we offer complete confidentiality. A large part of what we aim to achieve is to create a network of charities and organisations that we can steer people towards to access the specialist help they need that’s local to them. We also provide counseling, therapy, and coaching as part of our service.
I emailed Lord Dannatt and through his PA I now have a telephone conversation booked for Monday 12th February to discuss what we have done so far, what our future plans are and take advice and guidance from Lord Dannatt to ensure that we at least match his expectations of this sort of service.
I have also been in touch with ITV’s This Morning and my email is with the planning team who do the scheduling so I am keeping my fingers crossed. On top of this, a new friend Stephen Finlayson is helping by speaking to his connections at the BBC who he dealt with for a programme about him from a couple of years ago and also introducing me to people he knows at the CTP, (Careers Transition Partnership) who organise resettlement for people leaving the forces.
We are looking for funding and support across the board, so if you have any ideas or would like to help us in any way then please get in touch via my email firstname.lastname@example.org or via the facebook page which is Forces & Veterans Mental Health Helpline Facebook Page
Please share this with your friends, family, colleagues etc and help us to spread the word about the service we offer and what we are striving to achieve.
Here’s to a very successful 2018 for all of us.