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Mental health service for veterans aims to expand to help more people

Unveiling of the Veterans' Response Partnership car. Right, director of the Walnut Tree Project Luke Woodley with clinical psycologist Dr Roger Kingerlee. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Unveiling of the Veterans' Response Partnership car. Right, director of the Walnut Tree Project Luke Woodley with clinical psycologist Dr Roger Kingerlee. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Ambitious plans are being put in place to expand a service which looks after the mental health of the county’s veterans.

Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is now helping others with the condition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is now helping others with the condition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Since launching last year the Veterans Response Partnership has gone from strength to strength with their special response car, manned by experienced volunteers, which is called to support veterans experiencing mental health crises out-of-hours.

Under the banner on the Walnut Tree Project - headed up by veteran Luke Woodley - the car tends to be called out around five times a week, and is taken all over the region.

Mr Woodley said already it had saved the lives of five men who were about to take their own lives since it was launched in October.

Now, he wants to expand the service so everyone can benefit, and that begins with getting two new cars.

“We’ve done our bit for veterans, and we’re going to keep doing our bit,” said Mr Woodley, 43, who developed PTSD after serving in Bosnia in 1993.

“But we want to take the car service we have done and open it up to everyone.”

He said they would begin by focussing on men, due to the high suicide rate, but aimed to make the service available to anyone who needed it.

“There’s a lot of strain on our local services,” he added.

As well as expanding locally, the project has been granted planning permission to convert a residential property in Bulgaria into a retreat, which it is hoped will help veterans to find themselves again.

This means the project will be doing lots of fundraising over the coming months, but Mr Woodley was hopeful as members of the public had already shown such generosity.

An example of this was seen over Christmas, when damage was done to the service’s car window screen.

“We were out on the day before Christmas Eve seeing our veterans and delivering hampers and a kid threw a very large stone which cracked our window screen,” Mr Woodley said.

But he was taken aback when a mystery benefactor from Manchester offered to cover the £384 to repair the glass.

For more information, email walnuttreeproject@gmail.com

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