VETERANS struggling with extreme anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after risking their lives in international conflicts can feel safe in the knowledge that care and support is within reach in Swindon.

Mental Health Awareness Week this year centred around PTSD and, as it draws to a close today, mental health services are calling for an end to the stigma surrounding the condition and better understanding of the men and women unable to return to normality after witnessing the realities of war.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership is determined to hold out a helping hand to soldiers through its newly-launched support group The Brews And Wet.

“It’s a group for people who have served and those that are still serving. That’s what we mean by veterans,” said Ivor Bermingham, the AWP involvement co-ordinator for Swindon.

Ivor, who served in the RAF said: “Some may be service users, others may just be feeling their way. The aim is to offer self support and the guys can share their own experiences in terms of the help they have received, what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

“A lot of servicemen want to speak to people who understand them, what they have experienced and understand the terminology they use.”

“For a lot of people PTSD takes a long time to manifest and it could be to do with the culture.

“They are asked to be tough and there is the bravado of being in a predominantly male environment.”

Gareth Sharman, the involvement manager at AWP suffered anxiety after leaving the military in 1992. He turned to alcohol to cope and eventually ended up on the streets.

“Soldiers have all that pent-up emotion, some want to forget and some want to seek those sensations and the thrill they felt in the Army. That transition when they leave is hard.

“The danger is that soldiers can get to a point where they take drugs like cocaine to get that rush or turn to anti-depressants and alcohol to forget.

But we want them to know there is help in Swindon.”

The pair are also in the process of launching Ripple Ponds, a group aimed specifically at veterans’ extended families, whose life have gone through upheaval due to a loved one’s PTSD.

“We want to approach companies that actively recruit veterans but also work with A&E, the police, the fire services and even magistrates to try and provide first aid mental health training and explain to them what veterans go through,” said Gareth.

“Especially with the police and magistrates, it might allow them to understand why they get in trouble. They will also know to send them to us for help.”

To join The Brews And Wet contact Ivor on 07887756110 or by email at