A former Royal Marine who attempted suicide twice has urged veterans suffering a mental health crisis to make use of a new service launched by the NHS.
Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff will work with military charities to provide therapy, rehab services, and in extreme cases inpatient care, to former soldiers, sailors and RAF personnel each year as part of the new Op Courage service.
NHS England said those needing urgent help will receive a same-day referral.
The treatment has already been trialled in some areas and will be rolled out across the country by next month.
Former Royal Marine Anthony Muckell, who lives in London, has been able to get his life back on track following an intervention from the high-intensity service.
The 51-year-old, who served in the Gulf on board RFA Argus, said: “At my lowest point I attempted suicide twice, spent time in a psychiatric hospital and then prison; this led to me losing my job and homelessness.
“I was unable to explain what was wrong with me which meant that I didn’t get the help I needed, which meant giving up on life.
“Any veterans, or families of veterans, that need help should make the NHS Veterans’ Service their first point of call.
“The people that work there really do understand our needs and the help we need.
“If you know a veteran in need then please help them make contact with their local NHS Veterans’ Service.”
Speaking at the annual Kings’ Centre for Military Health Research Veterans’ mental health conference at King’s College London, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens was expected to say: “Anyone can be affected by mental ill-health but armed forces veterans may have seen and experienced things that few others – thankfully – will.
“That can create a special set of challenges which working with military charities helps to overcome, and that it what is at the heart of Op Courage – ensuring that the NHS is a National Hero Service.”
NHS England said that, over the last two years, the health service has expanded mental health services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
It said more than 13,000 former troops have benefited from specialist care for lower level problems such as anxiety and depression, while almost 2,000 more have received help for more complex problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The new service, which is expected to treat around 500 people a year, will focus on those in crisis, at risk of self-harm or suicide, or suffering other problems such as homelessness and addiction.
It is being rolled out after trials involving almost 200 former servicemen and women.
Op Courage is part of a nine-point NHS plan to support the armed forces.
Other commitments laid out in the plan include ensuring access to quality secondary care, reducing healthcare inequalities, helping with the transition to civilian life and increased support for veterans’ families, children and carers.