Charity that ‘saved Luton Sergeant Major’s life’ signs Armed Forces Covenant

A former Sergeant Major from Luton who suffered extreme Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after fighting for his country for 22 years has credited a veteran service for “bringing him back to life”.

Phil Credland retired from the Army in 2012 having served in Iraq and Northern Ireland, but did not realise how mentally unwell he had become.

But, the 49-year-old said he was saved by a veteran service provided by mental health charity St Andrew’s Healthcare, which has just signed the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC).

The AFC is a pledge that any organisation can sign which shows it acknowledges that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve.

Phil said: “I had become an alcoholic and my drinking gradually got worse until May 2020 when I stopped eating or drinking anything other than vodka. I was drinking three litres of vodka a day, everyday. I was so close to dying, I had lost more than six stone in weight and looking back it’s frightening at what very nearly happened to me.”

A kidney infection led to Phil being admitted to hospital where he was chemically detoxed. It was during his stay there that he was introduced to the St Andrew’s Healthcare Veterans Complex Treatment Service which provides help and support to former military personnel from the Midlands and East of England.

Phil, who is now a Commercial Manager, said: “The St Andrew’s veteran service saved me. I can categorically say they pieced me back together and I want to say ‘thank you for bringing me back to life’.

“In all my years’ service and after retiring I had never known what was wrong with me. I thought what I was going through was what everybody was experiencing. It was only when I met Catherine Vichare and her team that I started to realise that I was struggling quite considerably with my mental health.

“They talked to me, understood what it was that I needed. They stabilised me, developed a care treatment plan for me and referred me to a psychologist so I could get the proper treatment.”

Phil has not touched a drop of alcohol since he was admitted to hospital in 2020 and now cycles and visits the gym every day.

He said: “I’ve been given a second chance at life and for this I’m so, so grateful. I want to shout it from the rooftops how lucky I feel that I got the help I needed at such a low point in my life. The fact that St Andrew’s has signed this covenant is 100 per cent amazing news as it further reinforces how its willing to support people like me. ”

According to the latest UK Armed Forces Mental Health report, around 2.7 per cent of UK Armed Forces personnel who were assessed showed signs of having a mental health disorder.

Catherine Vichare, St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Clinical Director and Clinical Liaison Nurse within the Veterans Service, said: “PTSD is a mental-health condition that can result from experiencing or witnessing a frightening event. It commonly impacts former military personnel, but it can impact anyone who has been exposed to trauma. The challenge comes from recognising and diagnosing it and then ensuring the individual receives the right treatment.

“Symptoms don’t always appear straight away and in some cases can develop years after the event. It certainly got worse in Phil’s case and sadly, if people are not treated it can lead to additional problems, such as panic disorder, depression, substance abuse and suicidal feelings.

“I’m glad we were able to help Phil and he’s got his life back on track. He is the first veteran I have supported from assessment to discharge and seeing his recovery has been an emotional journey for me too.”

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s CEO Jess Lievesley said: “As an organisation which offers veterans a mental health service, we felt it was vital that we signed the covenant. We’re always looking at ways to enhance our corporate social responsibility and reputation. Signing the AFC shows we’re publicly declaring that we recognise the value that service personnel and military families contribute to the country.

“I’m immensely proud of St Andrew’s and all the reach out work we do with other veterans, who without our support might not be able to lead such fulfilling and stress free lives as they are doing so now.”

To find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant, or how you can support those who serve, click here.

To find out more about the St Andrew’s Healthcare Veterans Complex Treatment Service, click here