Like me numerous veterans have settled or are settling across the Three Towns area after completing service or on discharge, and whilst most of us do not experience serious problems some do. This can be made worse by isolation and the availability of drugs and alcohol. As recently reported in the national media that although Service in the Armed Forces is a positive and rewarding experience for the majority of those who serve, research indicates that Armed Forces personnel and veterans can, like others, experience mental health problems.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can affect all walks of life, members of the Armed Forces are frequently exposed to distressing sights and experiences on deployment, research has found that rates of PTSD are higher within regular members of the Armed Forces. More concerning are the statistics relating to alcohol misuse, the impact of deployment on the mental health of members of the Reserve Forces, and the suicide rates amongst young early service leavers.

There are on-going developments both locally and nationally to assist veterans. Locally the Defence Medical Welfare Services (DMWS) is actively supporting veterans on a medical pathway so is Veterans First Point (VIP). There are also numerous programmes, organisations, projects and charities aimed at assisting veterans.

In the first instance if you are a veteran, any age or service, or part of the veteran’s family you should get yourself/veteran on the radar by registering with VIP, 12-14 Bridgegate, Irvine, KA12 8BQ, 01294 310400.

Veterans are helping Veterans (V4V) across the nation as only Veterans can!

There are numerous programmes, organisations, projects and charities aimed at assisting veterans such as; Veterans Gateway helpline and the Big White Wall.

National courses aimed at those helping veterans have been offered locally, such as the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Course for the Armed Forces Community. Originally developed in Australia the MHFA course is aimed at identifying, signposting and initially addressing mental health problems within the forces and ex-forces community.

The development of the course has been supported by The Royal British Legion, Combat Stress and SSAFA amongst others. Four members of the Three Towns community completed the course which was funded by the Morrison’s Foundation, I’m a Mental Health Friend Scheme and those veterans who attended actively support and signpost veterans and their families to relevant organisations when called upon to do so.

The Ayrshire Armed Forces Breakfast Clubs also offer the chance to meet with other veterans and offers support through interaction with those with similar experiences and expert advice from different organisations

The Breakfast Clubs meet on Mondays at the Melbourne Café, Saltcoats, 10am and on Saturdays at the Carrick, Irvine 10am. All are welcome and has led to some being reunited with old friends and colleagues and new friends being made.