The Government is increasing its funding to provide better access to mental health care for veterans who fought in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Veterans’ Fund, which is funded by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA), has awarded grants to 51 projects across the UK that support young veterans and their families.
One of the main projects to benefit from the new funding is a peer-to-peer emotional support helpline for veterans struggling with their mental health. The project will be launched by Samaritans with the help of a £600,000 grant from the OVA.
The OVA – part of the Cabinet Office – has distributed a total of £5 million to projects that support Afghanistan veterans.
Around £150,000 is being provided to RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, which aims to improve the wellbeing of veterans through volunteering with Afghans who now live in the UK, including Afghans who worked with the UK military and were evacuated during Operation Pitting.
Other projects include providing veterans in Scotland with opportunities to engage with mindfulness to help aid recovery, and encouraging veterans to connect with one another through sports such as rugby, golf, climbing and horse riding. The funding will also aim to help increase access to assistance dogs for veterans struggling with their mental health. The dogs can help alleviate symptoms and triggers of PTSD.
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said: “We are forever grateful to those who served in Afghanistan and members of the Afghan community who worked with them. Their courage and commitment to this country will never be forgotten.
“This targeted funding for charities across the country will ensure that, regardless of location, those who have served and their families can access services easily.”
Chief Executive Officer of Samaritans Julie Bentley said: “Samaritans is proud to be supporting our Armed Forces community, many of whom have put their physical and mental health on the line to serve their country, with the creation of a new dedicated support service for military veterans.
“Sadly, we know from calls to our helpline that veterans consistently make up over 70% of the calls from the military community, and that they are almost twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts compared with the general population. That’s why it’s so important that veterans facing a crisis can easily access support and contact a trained veteran volunteer to help improve their wellbeing.”
Chief Executive Officer of RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity Allistair Halliday said: “The funding from the OVA will enable RFEA –The Forces Employment Charity to deliver vital support. We will be working with UK veterans to support Afghan people who are arriving in the UK and who worked alongside our UK Armed Forces during the 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan.
“The aim of our programme will be to enable those arriving from Afghanistan to access employment providing financial independence and inclusion in UK society. The sustained links that we will create between UK veterans, many of whom served in the Afghanistan conflict, and those arriving from Afghanistan, will create long-term benefit for both groups.”
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