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Posted on May 17 2022 by Fiona Bailey

A veteran who has been refused help from many ex-service and mental health organisations is “hopeful” for his future after attending Northampton’s Headfest.

The man, who does not wish to be identified, attended the St Andrew’s Healthcare Veterans’ Workshop at the town’s first mental health festival, and he has now been signposted to Op COURAGE, an NHS mental health specialist service designed to help serving personnel due to leave the military, reservists, armed forces veterans and their families.

After years of trying to get help for his anxiety and what he believes could be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he has been told by mental health experts at Headfest that support is now on the way.

The 73-year-old said: “It’s been 50 or 60 years of trying to deal with festering wounds, but I’ve ignored them. I’ve spent years looking after everyone else and putting myself last, but I’ve paid a price. I was feeling pretty desperate before I came to Headfest and the absolute truth is I might have done something stupid if I hadn’t been heard and listened to.

Clinical Director Catherine Vichare from St Andrew’s Healthcare, who runs the Veterans’ Complex Treatment Service, led the talk. She was joined by veteran Phil Credland, who shared his PTSD experience and recovery journey.

The man explained: “Catherine spoke to me after her presentation and has told me to call for an initial consultation and she’s going to ensure I am given the right treatment. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that finally, after all these years of burying my feelings of sadness, my anxiety might actually get dealt with. I am hopeful for my future. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in hosting Headfest. It has saved me.”  

Catherine said: “It was clear from what Michael was saying that he needs support and sadly it sounds like he’s been badly let down. But, we talked with him at length after our session and we have given him all the necessary pathways so he can now get the help he so desperately needs.

“This is an issue we see a lot among ex-servicemen. They need help and support and don’t know where to turn. Similarly, a lot of professionals are not sure where they should be sending these people – I was a nurse for years and I never received any information about where to send veterans. Michael has just highlighted how we really need to educate people better. There’s a whole community of people out there who need our help and support, and yet many of us will want to help, but just don’t know what to advise for the best.”

BBC Northampton presenter and Headfest founder Helen Blaby said: “If we have helped just one person get the help they need, then hosting Headfest has been worth it. Holding this event was so important to me. Although as a society we’ve come a long way in talking about mental health, we still have a fair bit to do and I really hope when we see Michael next year that he can tell us good news and that he’s started his recovery journey.”

Headfest has been running during Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, which kicked off on Monday, May 9. It brought together mental health organisations from across the county who all hosted a series of presentations and workshops that were mental health-related at the Royal & Derngate.