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Posted on Apr 5 2023 by Fiona Bailey

A former Sergeant Major who suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving his country for 22 years has praised a veteran service for being revamped so it can help more people.

Op COURAGE is an NHS specialist service which was developed by veterans, for veterans such as Phil Credland, who retired from the Army in 2012.

He served in Iraq and Northern Ireland, but did not realise how mentally unwell he had become, having become dangerously close to losing his own life due to extreme alcoholism.

At his lowest point, the 49-year-old sought help via the veteran service which St Andrew’s Healthcare delivered, which has just recently been streamlined to make it easier for those who need it to receive treatment.

Phil said: “The St Andrew’s veteran service saved me. I can categorically say they pieced me back together and I want to say ‘thank you for bringing me back to life’.

“In all my years’ service and after retiring I had never known what was wrong with me. I thought what I was going through was what everybody was experiencing. It was only when I met Catherine Vichare and her team that I started to realise that I was struggling quite considerably with my mental health.”

Set up in 2017, Op Courage supports people of any age who have served in any of the armed forces, at any time, for any duration. To date it has already helped 30,000 people.

The newly updated service is now bringing together three services which were previously known as the Veterans Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS), Veterans Mental Health Complex Treatment Service (CTS) and Veterans Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS).

So from now, there will just be one unified service for veterans, service leavers and their families.

Catherine Vichare, St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Clinical Director and Veterans Liaison Nurse within the Veterans Service, said: “PTSD is a mental-health condition that can result from experiencing or witnessing a frightening event. It commonly impacts former military personnel, but it can impact anyone who has been exposed to trauma. The challenge comes from recognising and diagnosing it and then ensuring the individual receives the right treatment.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this integrated pathway which will streamline provisions and ultimately ensure those who need the help are provided with the quality care and treatment they require.”

In the East of England, Op COURAGE will be delivered by a partnership of NHS providers which includes Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

In addition to St Andrew’s, other charities Mental Health Matters, The Warrior Programme and Walking With The Wounded have also signed up.

The new partnership means that behind the scenes these organisations will now collaborate in a different way, but for those service users who are already accessing the service it is unlikely they will notice any fundamental changes to their current care.

In the Midlands, the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Walking with the Wounded, Mental Health Matters, The Ripple Pond and Tom Harrison House will deliver the programme.

People are able to self-refer or family, friends their GP or a charity can contact Op COURAGE on their behalf.

Once the referral has been approved, Op COURAGE clinicians can help recognise and treat common problems such as anxiety, depression and substance misuse as well as more advanced mental health conditions and psychological trauma.

They can also help address other concerns that may be affecting people’s health and wellbeing, such as relationships, housing and finances, and can offer support to families and carers.

Each member of the team has either a military background or experience working with the armed forces community.

To refer, email or call 0300 034 9991.