I joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service as a Cadet Wren Weapon Analyst in 1975, at a time when women in the British Armed Forces seldom, if ever, saw front line action. Women were not to serve at sea until 1990 and I spent my career in a range of shore jobs, eventually retiring as a Commodore, Royal Navy, in 2007.
During my career, I was generally aware that there was a charitable organisation that could help servicemen and servicewomen who were experiencing psychological problems as a result of experiences they had encountered during their service, but I knew little about it. However, as a result of British involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, such problems became more readily apparent and I learned more about the invaluable work undertaken by the organisation that is now widely known as Combat Stress. But it was not until a friend who had served in active combat roles admitted to experiencing debilitating psychological effects resulting from her service that I made a point of learning more about the organisation that might provide my friend with the right sort of help.
Having eventually summoned up the courage to make the initial call for help, my friend was accepted for the six weeks residential course run by Combat Stress at their HQ near Leatherhead. There she learned to understand the nature of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was blighting her life – what caused it, how it manifested itself and – most importantly – the mechanisms and techniques that she might deploy to help combat its effects. The confidence that she gained in dealing with the impact of PTSD has had a hugely beneficial impact on her life which is now full of positivity and when the gremlins do raise their heads, she knows how to put them back in their box.
Through seeing the impact of what Combat Stress can achieve, I decided to become a registered supporter and have gained much from learning more about their work and hearing the stories of some of the people they have helped. It was thus a particular pleasure for me to attend a Supporters’ Event at the Combat Stress HQ at which I learned a great deal more about PTSD and heard at first hand from a veteran, proudly wearing the scarlet coat of the Chelsea Pensioner, about the “life-saving” help he received from Combat Stress.
I also learned that Combat Stress had lost over £3m a year in funding hitherto provided by the government through the NHS as it was diverted elsewhere. However, it is clear that the work of Combat Stress will only grow over the coming years due to the nature of the delayed onset of PTSD from the events that cause it. The organisation must therefore find new ways of funding its work and legacy-giving will be an important element of that. With the help of information sheets from Combat Stress about how easy it is to leave a legacy in your Will to the charity, I have chosen to do just that during a recent update to my Last Will and Testament. All I needed to do was to pass the instruction to my solicitor, together with the address of Combat Stress and the registered charity number which is readily available on their website. Legacy giving in this way can also help to offset any Inheritance Tax Liability when you die as all charitable legacies are deducted from your estate before any such liabilities are calculated. A real win-win!
PTSD is a very distressing condition that can have a massive impact on the lives of our servicemen and servicewomen, as well as on their families and those who love them. Combat Stress is uniquely capable of equipping veterans with the tools and techniques they need to handle the effects of PTSD, caused by their service to our country.
I am delighted to be able to help the work of Combat Stress into the future through leaving them a legacy in my Will and would urge anyone who holds our servicemen and servicewomen in high regard to consider doing likewise.
Sarah Seddon, fundraising: 01372 587 144
Combat Stress, Tyrwhitt House, Oaklawn Road, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 0BX
Charity Registration number: 206002 (SC038828 in Scotland)