Letter to the Editor of The Times

Anna’s letter about veterans’ charities was published in The Times on 25th November, read it in full here.

Published 25th November, 2014.

Veterans’ charities.

Sir,

While I agree with Sir Simon Wessely that mental health treatment should be left to the professionals, as the founder of two charities working in this sector I am saddened by the continual handwringing over veterans and “their mental health problems” (“Charities for veterans ‘harmful not helpful’” Nov 21).

As a non-clinician, my approach is from a practical, pastoral position and I feel this responsibility deeply. To me, a combat stress reaction is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, and I help and encourage those I work with to understand why people react and respond the way they do (hypervigilance and a short fuse can be very off-putting for the uninitiated).

What is not helpful is to badge these people with a mental health “problem” which they and their long-suffering families then have to drag behind them everywhere they go.

Combat Stress is doing good work to reduce stigma, and I find a greater openness among serving personnel to discuss their wobbles. However, to use the mantra of General Sir Andrew Ridgway, the chairman of Cobseo, the confederation of service charities, what the sector needs is collaboration and cooperation, and those of us who serve these unique and very special people must try harder to reassure and encourage them to crack on – which is what they really want.

ANNA BAKER CRESSWELL.

Development Director, HighGround, London SW1.