The Battle Proms is proud to support Combat Stress
While our events are very much a summer celebration, we are always mindful of the fact that music such as the Battle Symphony was written to commemorate a battle in which lives were lost, and that war continues today, in various guises, with the men and women of the armed forces still facing incredibly traumatic experiences. As a result the Battle Proms team decided to support the armed forces charity Combat Stress, who have been our charity partner since 2004. Over this time our audience has been overwhelmingly generous and through your kind donations and our own contribution from the concert’s profits, we raised over £47,000 for Combat Stress in 2016, taking the total raised since our partnership began to £287,663.89!
A very big Thank You to everyone who donated on the night.
Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for Veterans, providing specialist clinical treatment and welfare support to ex-Service men and women across the UK suffering from psychological injuries.
Founded at the end of the First World War, the charity has since supported more than 100,000 Veterans. Its services are increasingly in demand with Combat Stress currently helping over 5,600 Veterans - more than at any time in its long history.
Though the Veterans are aged 19 to 97 and have served in conflicts as far back as the Second World War or as recently as Afghanistan, they are all in need of the life-changing support Combat Stress delivers.
Many of them are suffering from the debilitating condition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety. To help these men and women rebuild their lives, Combat Stress provides trauma-focused treatment at three treatment centres, practical and clinical support in the community and a 24-hour Helpline (0800 138 1619).
The Veterans are at the heart of the charity’s work. Lewis, 25, is just one of the many Veterans who has been supported by Combat Stress to overcome his psychological injuries and lead a fulfilling life.
“In January 2008 I joined 4 Rifles and specialised in driving Mastiffs, Jackals and Bulldogs (heavily armoured personnel carriers), which would be essential to operations in Afghanistan.
“I was eventually deployed to Helmand Province in October 2009. I was 20 years old and what I encountered would change my life forever.
“My battalion came under repeated attack: casualties were high and the pressure was intense. But it was the constant threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that took the greatest toll on me. It was like playing Russian Roulette: you never knew when it would be your time.
“One particular incident shook me to the core. A good friend had taken my place on patrol while I stayed on base. We got news that he was in deep trouble. I drove the medical team the two kilometres at high speed to where we found him: he was still alive but so badly injured by an IED that they couldn’t save him.
“Casualties mounted up. A month before my six-month tour was due to end I was sent home to complete a mortar course. During this time another of my good friends died. I felt helpless and ashamed of not being there to help. I left the Army later that year, in December 2010.
“In the summer of 2011 my life began to unravel: I suffered from depression, nightmares and flashbacks. My emotions and behaviour became erratic and my personal relationships were badly affected.
“I went to see my GP who referred me for counselling, but I didn’t take to it at the time. I was a typical soldier, thinking ‘nah, this isn’t for me’.
“It was only in 2013 that I saw a TV programme about a traumatised Veteran that Combat Stress had successfully helped. I recognised the same set of symptoms and picked up the phone to them. I’m now beginning to turn my life around.
“I came to stay at the charity’s Surrey treatment centre, Tyrwhitt House, for a couple of weeks. That’s when I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I then did an intensive treatment programme.
“I’m a lot calmer now. I still have to rely on my tablets to help with the depression but I do feel like a new man. I’ve got some confidence and a bit more go in my life.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. I’m so glad I found the courage to pick up the phone. I don’t think there’s anyone else out there who could have helped me like Combat Stress.
“It’s not just the environment, the welcome and the kindness of the staff, it’s the 90-odd years they’ve had helping Veterans, helping people like me.”
The Battle Proms Team will continue to work closely with Combat Stress and support their vital work with veterans such as Lewis.