Portsmouth veterans said loss of helpline for troops with PTSD would be a ‘blow’

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VETERANS have warned the loss of a life-saving helpline for military heroes in crisis could be a ‘blow’ for the armed forces community.

Combat Stress, which helps traumatised troops battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said it may have to axe its 24-hour helpline amid a cash crisis.

M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, carrying out Operation Volcano against Taliban forces in the village of Barikyu in Nothern Helmand Province, Afghanistan. PRESS ASSOCIATION

M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, carrying out Operation Volcano against Taliban forces in the village of Barikyu in Nothern Helmand Province, Afghanistan. PRESS ASSOCIATION

The charity, which has treated veterans psychologically scarred by war for a century, said its round-the-clock service desperately needs funds.

Last year the line handled more than 12,500 calls. However, as previously revealed by The News, the charity lost £3.2m in funding from the NHS – a fifth of the charity’s income.

Charity bosses have since issued a desperate cash plea to the public in a bid to save the service.

Retired soldier Stephen James, co-founder of Portsmouth-based armed forces organisation All Call Signs, said: ‘To have any service that provides support for vulnerable service personnel removed or reduced is such a huge blow.

‘The users and potential users of this service are some of the most at risk in our military community.

‘We’re finally reaching a point where armed forces personnel understand that it is okay to reach out for help when you need it, we owe it to make sure someone is there to listen when they do.’

Carol Smith, Combat Stress director of client services, said: ‘We absolutely do not want to reduce the hours.

‘Our helpline is the first port of call for veterans seeking help and it is really important they are able to contact us at any time of the day or night.

‘A lot of calls are made at night because often people with mental health conditions find it difficult to sleep. Many have told us that if they hadn’t made that call they wouldn’t be here today.

‘We have enough funding to see us through to April because we have been fortunate enough to receive a couple of legacies.

‘But after that everything depends on how much money we are able to raise.’