A new, free, support service has been launched for veterans, serving personnel and their families.
Award-winning website, www.bigwhitewall.com, is a pioneering online wellbeing service, staffed by professional counsellors, that has already helped many other people. The Department of Health and Ministry of Defence have committed £250,000 to fund a one-year pilot of the Big White Wall specifically for serving personnel, veterans and their families. This is supported by a commitment of £100,000 from Help for Heroes for the first year, with additional funding after this.
Serving personnel, veterans and their families can access the 24/7 service for free. Amongst other services, Big White Wall users can chat anonymously to others who may have gone through similar experiences, with a team of specially trained counsellors always online to offer support.
“We are determined to do what is best for our Armed Forces, their families and veterans,” said Health Minister Simon Burns, “even though the vast majority of Service personnel make the transition to civilian life successfully, a small number suffer problems as a result of their service. We have a duty to look after them and their families.
“The Big White Wall will be an innovative way for them to access help anonymously and reinforces the Government’s commitment to support the health needs of those who have given so much for this country and the families that support them.”
The Department of Health has also launched an e-learning package it has funded for GPs so they can better identify and support veterans and their families.
The course was developed by the Royal College for General Practitioners (RCGP) as part of plans to improve veterans’ mental health services. It will raise awareness with GPs of the need to ensure that those seriously injured when discharged from the Armed Forces continue to receive the best possible care. It will also ensure that GPs are able to offer the right support to families of those currently serving or who are veterans.
Health Minister Simon Burns said:
“The e-learning course for GPs will ensure that GPs are able to offer the best possible service to veterans and their families, giving them the best treatment and experience possible.”
The Department of Health has been working closely with the NHS, service charities, the Ministry of Defence and others to deliver the recommendations made by Dr Andrew Murrison MP in his report, ‘Fighting Fit – a mental health plan for servicemen and veterans’. Today’s announcement builds on the 24-hour mental health helpline with Combat Stress and Rethink (0800 138 1619) launched in March and continuing work in increasing the mental health capability for veterans within the NHS in England. As part of the Government’s new mental health strategy, No Health Without Mental Health, more than £7 million in additional funding has been made available over the next four years to help ensure that veterans with mental health problems get the very best care.
Dr Andrew Murrison MP said:
“It is great that our Armed Forces community, including their families, now have access to this online early intervention service – giving them another place to turn to for support.”