"A different battle to fight" - Our Armed Forces Day blog with Veteran Champion, Russell Wright | News and Events

"A different battle to fight" - Our Armed Forces Day blog with Veteran Champion, Russell Wright

Russell Wright works as Support Worker for the Wigan Mental Health Urgent Response Team.  He is also the Trust’s Armed Forces Champion. 

For Armed Forces Day this year (Saturday 25 June), Russell shares his thoughts on his transition from the Armed Forces to the NHS, living with combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and his pride to work for a Trust which is Veteran-Aware accredited.

“After leaving the Armed Forces in 1987, I really struggled with my mental health and addiction, as do many people in this situation.  I had high levels of anxiety, insomnia and regularly suffered from panic attacks and flashbacks of my time in service. The traumas of what we have been through, along with trying to settle into a completely different way of life, means ex-service personnel can become very mentally unwell,” says Russ.

“It can be difficult to find people who can identify with what you have gone through, but an organisation called ‘Combat Stress’ was recommended to me.  It was during my time with them that I was formally diagnosed with combat-related PTSD.  They helped me to get residential and outpatient support for this as well as help through the NHS for my alcohol addiction.”

In 2009, Russ contacted NHS England following an initiative to provide help for veterans.  This work became pivotal to his recovery, and it was then he decided that once he felt better, he would dedicate his life to helping fellow veterans and their families cope with similar problems that he had been through.

“I also realised I needed to sustain myself and I needed full time employment,” explains Russ.

In 2011, Russ wrote to his local drug and alcohol service and simply asked for a job.  The service was run by GMMH’s predecessor trust, Greater Manchester West, and after securing funding from the Poppy Factory and the Royal British Legion for his salary, the rest is history.

“I have worked in the NHS as a Veteran’s Champion since 2011 and I remain in this position to this day.” Russ proudly states.

So, what does it mean to Russ that GMMH has Veteran-Aware Accreditation?

“As veterans, we need to know that our NHS is fully aware of our mental health needs and is prepared to honour the government pledges made under the Armed Forces Covenant,” explains Russ. “National services are improving and by GMMH undertaking this initiative I am really proud to work for the Trust. I will continue to do my bit as a Support Worker to support our veteran service users and raise awareness of veteran issues.”

As Armed Forces Champion, Russ builds a connection with service users by forming a bridge between practitioner and the veteran, encouraging them to engage with services.  Russ’s experience helps to gain the trust of veterans and makes them more willing to accept support.  Russ also provides vital Veteran Awareness training to all members of his team and makes links with local council and veteran charitable organisations to raise awareness in the community.

Russ has some inspiring words of advice for anyone who has been part of the Armed Forces and is struggling with their mental health.

“I have realised the best form of recovery is to adopt coping strategies and I am determined to help others achieve this too.  I am a great believer in talking therapies and believe that for veterans to discuss their trauma-related issues in a controlled and safe way is key to coping with the condition.  I have had some successful outcomes within our service user group, and we have made excellent progress with our veterans, giving them valuable support and hope for the future.

“You don’t have to go through continuous psychological trauma all the time.  Help is out there – but you must be willing to accept it.  I am living proof that you can get yourself out of this darkness.  This is just a different battle for veterans to fight.”

As a patient

As a service user, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Find resources for carers and service users  Contact the Trust

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