50% of veterans 'struggling with mental health during Covid-19 outbreak'

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50% of veterans 'struggling with mental health during Covid-19 outbreak'

Two in five wounded military veterans say they have experienced a delay in accessing NHS services or treatment since the coronavirus outbreak, a survey has suggested.

Half (50%) of the 1,161 wounded veterans and serving personnel surveyed by Help for Heroes charity admit they are not managing their mental health as well as before the pandemic started.

It comes amid concerns from the World Health Organisation that patients are avoiding seeking medical advice through fear of contracting coronavirus, while NHS England last week reported a huge drop in the number of urgent cancer referrals.

Figures from Help for Heroes suggest almost two-thirds (64%) of those who experienced delays to NHS services said this negatively impacted on their mental health, while almost three in five (59%) said it affected their physical wellbeing.

One-third (34%) of those polled said they were concerned about being able to access the NHS once the pandemic eases.

Former Army officer Cornelia Oosthuizen, who had her lower right leg amputated after being diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome in November 2018, said she was among those negatively affected by the Covid-19 outbreak when her latest appointment with specialists helping her walk again was cancelled in April.

The wheelchair tennis player said: “Using a prosthetic leg is a touch harder than I imagined. It can take anything from three to six months to learn to walk with a prosthetic leg.

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit

Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58

“I had successfully learnt to manage it but now the prosthetic isn’t fitting, walking has become problematic. I’m avoiding walking where I can and have had to adapt my physical training which isn’t ideal as an elite athlete.

“I feel like I’m taking unnecessary risks by trying to manage without my prosthetic leg and have become more house bound than I otherwise would have been.”

Melanie Waters, chief executive of Help for Heroes, said: “It is clear from our survey that veterans with physical and mental health needs are finding recent events challenging and need us as much as ever.

“The fundraising climate for charities is extremely tough but together we will show our veterans and their families we are still here for them. Right now, we need your support more than ever to keep our services running for those who have given us, and our nation, their all.”

The charity said it expects to miss out on 40% of its income this year due to postponed fundraising events. However, it said it is continuing to deliver support to those in need, including through therapy sessions over the phone and on video conferencing.

For more information, visit helpforheroes.org.uk

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