Servicemen and women, our reserves and their families are, like the rest of us wanting to live their lives in peace and in a setting they have chosen. Of course most of us make compromises due to our age, health and lifestyle choices. But for many who find themselves in an accident, a victim of crime or even caught up in a major incident they may face what is euphemistically called “life changing injuries”. These injuries may be leave mental scars instead of or as well as physical ones.
People who serve in our armed forces however may be ordered to places where they face truly horrific incidents; where they see what no person should see and attempt to deal with what no person should ever have to do. They are expected to function, under discipline to resolve whatever they have been directed to do. Life changing injuries of one sort or the other, or both may ensue.
This I believe sets them apart and it takes a special sort of courage to know that your job may place you in harms way. Hopefully through training and teamwork they will pull though, wiser and more experienced but not all will be so fortunate.
There are a multitude of organizations to support these service personnel, reserves and their families but as physical scars are clear and obvious at their inception the mental ones can often lie dormant for years.
And when the ‘boxed up’ troubling memories arise they can be denied or inappropriately self-treated and end up bringing the veteran into conflict with their family, their place in the community and into contact with the criminal justice system. Now clearly there are lots of charities, local services and organizations who can help prior to this point IF the veteran is prepared to find and accept the support available. However when you are on a downward spiral and becoming less outgoing this can be difficult to do.
This is where the Veterans Programme can help. A referral to us can make all the difference. When a veteran comes into the criminal justice system [CJS] we work with them to get them to realize the situation they are in. Often the CJS contact acts as a shock. Our team will work to help them retain their freedom and undertake restorative justice. Where other charities provide support for specific needs we not only signpost these but ensure the end user can access them. Support for families is vital at this time and coaching or mentoring can make the difference to the outcomes for these hurting folk.
Now one in four of us will have a mental health episode in a year. Everyone needs support and help but for our veterans who have put themselves in harms way to defend us an our freedoms it is right and proper that they are able to rely on the rest of us to defend and protect them from the injuries they have sustained in our service. A pension is not enough. That is why the vulnerable veterans programme is absolutely necessary.
Read more about the programme at http://www.smpl.org.uk
The author, Roger Nield MBE was a career police officer who has published research into interviewing vulnerable witnesses.
The SMPL Team support the community covenant.