The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) hosted an event at La Mon Hotel and Country Club in Belfast on Friday (23 June) to launch two reports on veteran services in Northern Ireland (NI). Attended by 50 people, the event presented findings from the two reports, both funded by FiMT: Serving and Supporting Military Veterans in Northern Ireland, the first of several reports from the Northern Ireland Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Study from Ulster University; and Call to Mind Northern Ireland: Findings from the Review of Veterans’ and their Families’ Mental and Related Health Needs in Northern Ireland, the last in the Call to Mind single nation report series.

Supporting and Serving Military Veterans in Northern Ireland was presented by Dr Cherie Armour and Dr Bethany Waterhouse-Bradley from the Psychology Research Institute at Ulster University. It is the first report from the Northern Ireland Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Study (NIVHWS), a large-scale study into the current and future support needs for veterans in NI. This report, which examined services available to support veterans in the region, calls for a formally recognised body to better guide policy and support key agencies working to support veterans in NI.

The Call to Mind Northern Ireland: Findings from the Review of Veterans’ and their Families’ Mental and Related Health Needs in Northern Ireland report, was presented by Dr Jon Bashford, Senior partner at Community Innovations Enterprise. It aims to help health service commissioners and service providers determine the most effective ways to assess the mental and related health needs of veterans and their families and to support the development of appropriate services to meet their needs. It is the final national report before the concluding United Kingdom summary report next month.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive FiMT says: “We were extremely pleased to host this event and to see the commitment to supporting the Veterans Community in Northern Ireland. The evidence and recommendations put forward by these two reports offer us an opportunity to better understand the issues faced by veterans in Northern Ireland and their families, the sensitivity of the context, and where improvements or adjustments may be made to further enhance understanding of need and service provision. I am very pleased that both reports identify a commitment from policy makers and service delivers to ensure that the particular needs of veterans and their families are better met in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Cherie Armour, Associate Dean for Research & Impact in Life & Health Sciences at Ulster University, said: “I and my team are delighted to publish the first report from the Northern Ireland Veterans Health & Wellbeing Study. The report provides the first ever robust review of the service delivery infrastructure available to veterans in NI. Based on comprehensive evidence base, we propose new structures to optimise the support available to NI veterans. We worked with stakeholders to create recommendations which were realistic, and have a genuine prospect of creating meaningful change for veterans through improved services and communication. The recommendations are driven by the need to see veterans first and foremost citizens of NI, who at times may have a specific support need.”

Dr Jon Bashford, who led the UK series of reviews for Community Innovations Enterprise, said: “Northern Ireland is leading the UK on developing trauma services and this is rightly focused on the whole population. However, there is a need to ensure that veterans living in Northern Ireland can benefit from these services and related mental health and social care provision, in particular, in the statutory sector. This review highlights some of the barriers and issues faced by these services in meeting the needs of these veterans and their families.”