South Tyneside veterans urged to swallow their pride and seek the help they deserve

A veterans' campaigner has urged former forces personnel to swallow their pride and seek the help they deserve in civvy street.

Ian Driver’s call follows an investigation by the Gazette’s parent company, Johnston Press, which suggests the true figure of suicides among veterans remains hidden.

Ian Driver.

Ian Driver.

Mr Driver has assisted about 300 ex-servicemen, women and their families with issues such as finding them homes, food and jobs since founding South Shields-based Veterans Response in 2013.

Among the increasing problems he is helping veterans deal with is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

While partly putting this down to increased awareness and acceptance of mental health issues, Mr Driver fears the numbers requiring support will increase as more personnel who served in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan retire.

He added: “My message to the forces is to swallow your pride and seek the help which is available.

“Quite often veterans are wary of speaking out about what they have struggled with because they feel that people on civvy street will not understand them.

“The problems can start from the Monday they leave when they make an appointment to see someone at the council about housing at 10am, the appointment is delayed until 10.45am, they want to know why because 10am means 10am in the forces and before you know where you are a row begins and the police are called.

“What we do here is give people advice about what to expect when they leave.

“Often it is not what they have been told the previous Friday by their Regimental Sergeant Major.

Also read: How South Tyneside veterans can get the help they deserve

“If they also require help to deal with PTSD then we deal with people we know, who we have met, and who where possible are forces trained.”

While based in South Shields, Veterans Response helps people from across the region with ex-servicemen even contacting the not-for-profit company from as far away as Kent.

Its work includes organising breakfast clubs, food banks and training courses as well as visiting those who are unfortunate enough to end up in prison to prepare for a return to society.

Mr Driver said: “Society needs to be more understanding of the problems veterans face and to give them a second chance where necessary.

“Little things such as a firework going off on Fireworks Nights or at Christmas or a birthday party can trigger a memory of something horrible and cause problems.

“We have had to deal with people who have committed self-harm or thought about committing suicide.

“Thankfully, in one case, we were able to prevent him from harming himself or worse and get him into a routine where he was out meeting people and going for walks.

“But the problem is only going to get worse as more people leave the Army after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Ireland.

“PTSD cannot be cured, it can only be managed and it is not a case of ‘what is wrong with me’, it is a case of ‘what has happened to me’.

“From the Army, Government, councils and the public, we all need to play our part in realising that and supporting that.”

Veterans Response, whose patron is the Duchess of Northumberland, relies on donations and is hoping soon to obtain charitable status so that it can apply for grants to expand its work.

Further information about its services or how to support it is available from (0191) 4274764 or at www.veteransresponse.com