The Headway Forces Support Group is the first group of its kind in the country. Led by former Army Captain and brain injury survivor Rob Cromey-Hawke, who is the Acting Chairman of the new branch, it will deliver a range of support services to brain injured forces personnel and veterans and their families across North Yorkshire and the North East of England.
The new branch will initially run monthly peer support meetings that will aim to break down stigma surrounding servicemen and women asking for help and support by providing a safe space for people to share their experiences with others from military backgrounds.
Sessions run at Phoenix House will also enable service users, their families and carers to benefit from physical activities including pilates, relaxation sessions and yoga classes.
The group is being supported by Help for Heroes, which will is not only generously allowing Headway to use its excellent facilities at its Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick, but will also help by referring people to the support group.
In 2012, Rob Cromey-Hawke, 31, had been on a tour of Afghanistan when the service vehicle in which he was travelling drove over an explosive device. The incident left Rob with a severe spinal cord injury, hearing loss and, perhaps most worryingly, a traumatic brain injury. His brain injury caused him to suffer from ongoing memory problems, persistent dizziness and an acute sensitivity to light.
Like many other servicemen in his position, Rob did not know where to turn for support when making the transition from military to civilian life, particularly while tackling the daily challenges that come with having sustained a brain injury.
Rob joined - and soon became chair - of the Headway Forces steering group, helping to establish the military-specific support team based at Phoenix House.
"Once you have been medically discharged, you are on your own," said Rob, who lives near Skipton, North Yorkshire, with his partner Karen and their two children, Connor and Charlie.
"I soon discovered that the support available largely depends upon where you live in the UK.
"The idea behind the Headway Forces Support Group is that anyone who has served in the Armed Forces gets the help they need - whether their acquired brain injury is a result of an incident while serving or not. We want to facilitate a smooth transition of care from what was provided before medical discharge to that available afterwards."
And the vision does not stop there. Future plans for the Headway branch includes an education programme designed not only for military families affected by brain injury, but for the military chain of command, the NHS, and medical specialists to help everyone understand what support is available and areas for improvement.
It is hoped that the Headway Forces Support Group will serve as a template for the creation of other similar branches around the country. Headway also has plans to create an online community forum that will enable military personnel from around the country to access support and engage with the group's discussion on issues relating to brain injury.
Alastair White, Network Support Coordinator for Headway, said: "At Headway, we know the devastation a brain injury can cause. Whether sustained in combat or in everyday life, the challenges an individual and their loved ones can face can be overwhelming.
"Members of the armed services injured in combat or training receive high-quality acute care and treatment. But where hospitals and medics help save people's lives, our role is to help rebuild them and enable people to once again play active roles in their communities.
"The hidden aspects of brain injury can make it difficult for people to receive the help and support they need. By launching this new support group, we hope to reach out to more armed forces personnel and veterans living with brain injury to ensure they are not suffering in silence."Back