23 October 2020

A project to provide better connected NHS support for armed forces veterans has been launched by the Trust. Sharon Deans is supporting the project as a Veterans’ Champion to share her insight and experience gained as a military wife, Army Welfare Service volunteer and member of the Military Wives Choir.

“I have been married to my husband Bobby for 18 years this year and we currently reside with three of our five children in the East of England with his current job.  

I'm a volunteer youth worker with the Army Welfare Service (AWS)  and have been for more than five years.  My youth work and the Military Wives Choir are both very important in my life as support networks for both myself and for others.

I became involved with East London NHS Foundation Trust’s veterans’ project when a friend invited me to take a look at it, knowing that I like to do things within the community.

I've always believed that to see a change you need to be part of that change. Being able to give an insight into what is needed means that lived experience can be a crucial part of this project and my hope is that it can go a long way towards helping make the change that services, veterans and their families need.

It would mean that myself and others can give a voice to those who otherwise seem to fall through the cracks in the current systems, hopefully enabling them to get the help and support that is so greatly needed.

My husband like many other serving and ex serving service personnel has PTSD.  We have been dealing with this for more than 16 years together now.

Support and help for him within the military has been second to none but getting help and support for myself has been more of a challenge, as I am a civilian and a lot of the time professionals have not known where to signpost me to get help.  

I myself feel like I have had to tell my story to numerous people and it made me want to withdraw from any help as constantly calling different numbers and hitting a brick wall made it harder each time. 

I don't believe it helps anybody having to be sent from one person to the next as each time you've opened up it gets harder, especially when you are getting no support and help from it.  The individual shouldn't be having to call multiple numbers for themselves or families in hope of eventually receiving the right help.

Veterans and their families have a specific need and currently the understanding and help that's needed just isn't as available as it should be.

A lot of friends and loved ones have had issues with a continuity of care when leaving the services, unfortunately at times this means that help can come too little too late. 

The pressures of what military lives have shown and done to them can become too much and I can only hope that this project can enable myself and the others involved to help far more people get the care  and support needed.

Other challenges that people in the forces and their families face can be the stress of adjusting to the huge and sometimes rapid change from military to civilian life. The serving personnel have courses and support supplied by the military but there is only so far that this help can go. 

More help with, where and how to secure housing, health and social help would be beneficial to them and their families, as it would help to relieve some of the pressure that is placed on them and could make a big difference.

I am and always have been passionate about giving a voice and making a difference for those who otherwise wouldn't have one and I am glad that I have the opportunity to work alongside the NHS in bettering the support for the armed forces veterans’ community."

Picture: Sharon and her family.