Mental Health Support for Limbless Veterans

Established in 1932, Blesma is a national membership charity that provides support to limbless veterans, offering rehabilitation activities ranging from skydiving to fishing, prosthetic support, and advice on a wide range of welfare issues.

With seven regional officers and 50 members of staff, the organisation is reaching out to an important part of the veteran community, some of whom are experiencing mental,as well as physical, health issues. Having introduced Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) into the charity Blesma’s Activities Manager and Army Reservist, Dave Coulton explains why he feels this training isso important:

“Before I joined Blesma I spent six years serving as an officer in the British Army, including an operational tour in Helmand. When we returned to the UK I sensed some of my colleagues were struggling with their mental health but I didn’t have a clue how to approach the subject, let alone offer my help. When I joined BlesmaI could see that many of our members were also experiencing mental health issues but we hadn’t been trained to know how to help them either. That’s when I decided to find out about the Armed Forces Mental Health First Aid course.”

Dave felt that the most effective way to introduce MHFA into the charity was to train to become an instructor himself. After completing the rigorous seven-day instructor training course, Dave was qualified to deliver the two-day Armed Forces MHFA course to others within the charity. So far there are eight front-line staff members trained within Blesma, all of whom are now able to spot the signs and symptoms of a range of mental health issues and have the confidence to guide the affected person to appropriate support.

Dave is also putting his skills to good use within his Reserve Regiment and has delivered a number of courses to fellow reservists, something which he says is vital because “Reservists have a higher incidence of reported mental ill health on return from operations, perhaps because they don’t have the same period of adjustment that a full-time serving solider has”. He has also co-delivered the Armed Forces MHFA course as part of the Army Welfare Officers Training and says, “Despite the course being a mandatory part of their overall training, the reaction from the officers was overwhelmingly positive.”

Dave concludes, “The Armed Forces MHFA course has taught me that it’s OK to offer support to someone who is experiencing a mental health issue and that it won’t make the situation worse. The feedback from staff who I’ve trained echoes this sense of confidence and they are already starting to make use of this in their everyday jobs, signposting veterans to access the mental health support that is available to them.”

For more information about Armed Forces Mental Health First Aid, please visit www.mhfaengland.org or email info@mhfaengland.org. To find out more about Blesmaand the support it offers veterans, please visit www.blesma.org

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