ARMY veteran Graham Stobbs wants to set up a support centre in Swindon to help former service personnel to tackle their mental health problems.

The 47-year-old says he feels compelled to act after his own experiences of being let down when he had a breakdown that ended with him attempting to take his life.

Now Graham has set his sights on raising £50,000 for his Veterans’ Hub on a 222-mile kayak trip next May from Dungeness in Kent to northern France.

“Trying to access mental health for veterans is so long and drawn out,” said Graham.

“It was eight months before I got any help, but I was already suicidal at that point. With that timescale, anyone else could have successfully killed themselves.”

Graham left the army in 1993, but his mental health spiralled following his divorce five years ago. He was assessed by the Veteran Transition Intervention and Liaison Service, which provides support for current and ex-forces personnel.

“They pretty much failed me,” he said. “They turned me down because apparently I wasn’t bad enough.

“Veterans are just left in the hands of charities when they come out. This needs to change. We served the government so why is it left to the charities to help us out?

“But if I was getting turned down by the big charities, there are thousands of people who need help who are getting turned down.”

Graham, from central Swindon, set up Veterans’ Hub Swindon – currently a Facebook community – nine months ago. But hopes the money raised from the trip will help open a physical hub for veterans in Swindon.

He added: “Lots of people coming out of the forces self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.

“The Veterans’ Hub will be a café where we will sign post to mental health therapies, welfare, support.

“But it will be a non-clinical area, where if you want the help, we can get that for you.

“It’ll be a relaxed environment, somewhere where veterans can chat and feel safe and be amongst their own.”

Graham, who organised the successful MFor Festival at Lydiard Park last month, continued: “The military is an entity on its own because of what we do and witness.

“You’re battling with your conscience because we have to go and take life.

“Talking to a civilian doesn’t help, they don’t know what it’s like, they’ve never been in a war zone. But you tend to find that an army veteran will talk to another veteran. So this will be a place for that.”

Graham completed a tour of Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.

He served in the village of Crossmaglen in south Armagh with the 3rd battalion the Royal Green Jackets in 1991 and 1992 when he was 19.

The area was considered so dangerous the army had to be flown in by helicopter.

“I was severely affected by what I saw out there. I lost mates, I went through situations. When I came out I was in a bad way,” said Graham.

Over the 14-day challenge, Graham will kayak from Dungeness to Boulogne with Paul Levins. Andy Price is their land support. They run the Veterans’ Hubs in Harrogate and Weymouth.

The trio will then travel along the northern coast to the Pegasus Bridge memorial near Caen for D-Day (June 6) to lay a wreath, finishing at Pointe Du Hòc.

“The first time we got in a kayak was six weeks ago, so this will be a challenge,” said Graham. “But the military have a tendency to do things that others don’t.”

The trip will also support Walking with The Wounded.

To sponsor Graham, go to