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Developing the new veterans mental health crisis, NHS111 service for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - A story by Sonya McLean

With a background in mental health and as the wife of a veteran herself, Sonya McLean has been an integral part of the team developing the new veterans’ mental health crisis NHS 111 service for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Sonya’s husband Lee was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, now the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Over 20 years after he had left the army, he suffered a breakdown, after being triggered during his work at Hampshire police in 2018.

Sonya, senior commissioning manager for Mental Health Crisis Care at the West Hampshire CCG, said: ‘Lee had never really talked about his time in the army and I think life was a whirlwind after he left as we bought our first house, got married, had IVF and then had our twins Archie and Logyn.

‘It wasn’t until an incident in the police when he had a trigger and all those emotions from before came flooding out. Thinking about it, we know that many veterans come in to civvy street and take on demanding jobs that reinforce the ‘fight or flight’ response, for some triggering their PTSD.

‘Lee said he wanted to kill himself and thought our family would be better off without him there. It was a really difficult time.

‘For family members it can be hard to understand what to do and how to help. We managed to get a psychologists’ support and I honestly think they saved his life.’

In my work I have been responsible for establishing a mental health triage service and I can honestly say that my lived experience helped me to bring the perspective of the carer and family to the service. Quite often we can feel overlooked, when we ourselves need support with our mental health too.

I think the new veterans’ crisis mental health NHS 111 service, for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, will be a huge relief for families and carers looking after veterans with poor mental health.

We know that Christmas brings about added pressures to family life and having the support of this crisis services will be a lifeline. The added benefit of knowing that the person you talk with on the end of the phone is trained to manage trauma and will often have had a lived experience themselves is incredible.

I would honestly tell any veteran or family member of a veteran, feeling as though they have reached a tipping point; HIS will give veterans and their loved ones access to people who have been trained to help and many who can actually understand what people in the armed forces have been through.’

For more information about the Hampshire and Isle of Wight veterans’ mental health NHS 111 service and High Intensity Service, for veterans and their families, look here

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