Health Minister Robin Swann has announced an additional £6.02m for the Mental Health Support Fund which will enable charities and organisations across Northern Ireland to enhance the vital support and help on offer.

Organisations which have been successful in their applications for funding from the Mental Health Support Fund will be informed in the coming weeks.

A County Down charity working to help ex-service personnel with their mental health heard today they have been awarded £100,000 from the Fund.

Beyond the Battlefield, based in Newtownards, focuses on the wellbeing of the ex-service community in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It works with counsellors to assess and treat ex-service people who experience symptoms and problems relating to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as connected issues such as stress, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, financial difficulties, relationship problems, suicide, self-harm and trauma.

Minister Swann visited Beyond the Battlefield’s new Veterans Support Centre in Portavogie, on the Ards Peninsula today. He said: “I am delighted that I have been able to commit additional funding to the Mental Health Support Fund so that charities and organisations can carry out their very important work to help people with the support they need when they need it.

“Like many other organisations working in the mental health sector, Beyond the Battlefield has experienced a significant increase in demand for services during the pandemic and it expects this to continue to rise, so this funding is very welcome indeed.

“I heard today how the range of services provided by Beyond the Battlefield has made a positive improvement to the lives of many ex-service personnel, and I commend the staff and volunteers for all they are doing to help people look after their mental health and wellbeing.

The charity will use the grant to support its ‘Be Well, Keep Well’ project which enables counselling and provides the costs of PTSD diagnosis as well as facilitating training in skills and techniques for people to look after their mental health, manage their feelings when they are stressed, worried or depressed, and help them to cope with challenges.

James Knox, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Beyond the Battlefield, said: “Beyond the Battlefield staff and volunteers were happy to welcome the Health Minister to our new Veterans Support Centre in Portavogie. Whilst still in development, we showed him around the complex and told him of our plans for the future support of all veterans.

“The commitment we have received from our volunteers and supporters is amazing as we continue on this journey and to have received the news of this funding is wonderful. Whilst more work is needed, this funding will allow us to progress and support veterans over the next two years.

“The demand upon our services over the past two years has been unprecedented. The money received through the Mental Health Support Fund will go a long way in helping us to continue to adapt and deliver our vital services to the veterans community and we would like to thank Minister Swann for his continued support for our work.”

The Minister concluded: “Last June, I published my Department’s Mental Health Strategy which is the blueprint for reform of mental health services in Northern Ireland. It contains a firm commitment to co-production in the development and implementation of mental health policy. This includes involvement of the community and voluntary sector to make maximum use of the sector’s expertise.

I wish Beyond the Battlefield well with the ongoing work to develop the new Veterans Support Centre and look forward to visiting again once it is operational.”

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