Outside the Wire

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A bespoke drug and alcohol service offering confidential advice and support to current and ex HM Forces personnel and their families, across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

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Our Services

Our highly-trained and experienced workers, who are themselves ex-Forces, have a particular understanding of the needs and issues faced by veterans, current serving personnel, and their families.

Quick Links

​We offer innovative, comprehensive support which includes confidential meetings at the location of your choice across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. We are sensitive to the complexities of military life and the often understandable resistance to admitting the extent of any personal issues, especially those relating to: PTSD and other mental health; alcohol and drug use; domestic violence and family related issues.​

Our military veteran groups from Outside The Wire have restarted, providing an opportunity for like minded adults to get together and support each other. 

The Norfolk groups are as follows:


Norwich, Oak Street - Tuesday evenings - 18.30 to 20.30
The Shed, Sheringham - Thursday evenings – 1900 to 2100
Former RAF Coltishall Guardroom - Wednesday evenings – 1900 to 2100
RAF Marham Chaplaincy Centre – (aimed at dependants and serving military personnel) - Fortnightly, day tbc – 1000 to 1430

The Suffolk groups are as follows:


Bury St. Edmunds – every Tuesday 1000 – 1200hrs – The really rather good café – jointly with NSFT 
Woodbridge – the last Wednesday of the month 1000 – 1200hrs – The Tea Hut café  - run by Ian Jacob.
Ipswich – The last Tuesday of each month 1000 – 1200hrs  – The Key Café – currently closed due to the pandemic – this will be a joint OTW / NSFT / Blue light support group when it reopens.
Haverhill – The last Thursday of each month 1000 – 1200hrs – Haverhill Arts Centre run by David Mulvihill – currently closed.
Lowestoft – The last Thursday of each month 1000 – 1200hrs  – The Lord Kitchener Hotel.

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Testimonials

"I’ve been receiving regular visits from Paul over the last few months after being put in touch with Outside The Wire by my partner. Our meetings have been very beneficial so far and I have made some positive changes in my behaviour, especially towards excessive alcohol consumption. Paul has made me understand like never before the impacts that alcohol can have on my life, my work and family. His help has been brilliant and he also understands the pressures of leaving the service and conveys his messages with an understanding and empathetic tone albeit with a sense of authority which I really needed. His wealth of experience has taught me many things and given me a belief that I have been lacking for a long time ……A believe in myself. 
I’m a sufferer of PTSD, depression and anxiety. Paul has build a strong report with me from day one and enabled me to open up about whats really going on in my life and to take a step back and actually evaluate everything. He has encouraged me to focus on the positive things in my life much more and even offered me a challenge of improving my fitness.
 
Covid-19 -  Since the lock down in March has been in force, mine like so many others lives have been impacted. Paul has gone out of his way to keep me informed of his availability and we have continued to work together via the telephone. This has been a God send. His continued support has kept me level despite a couple of bouts of heavy drinking of which we have discussed, analysed and I’m please to say I have under control. On one occasion when I was having a particular bad time my partner contacted Justin and he immediately called me to discuss the matter and gave me hope. 
 
In reference to Paul encouraging me to exercise and aim for new fitness goals, I have agreed to work towards running a 5k race. I am now on my 4th week of training using the NHS couch to 5k application and have to say despite it’s challenges has help me immensely . Paul and I get on very well and we have much in common including service life. I am making progress with my life because of Paul and hope to be able to continue to have meetings with him for the foreseeable future. He is a fantastic representative for your incredible charity and now my friend"

Names and personal details have been changed to protect identities

"If you had not been there for me at my time of need, I believe, hand on heart, that my son would be growing up without a Dad. I owe my life to Outside the Wire"

A service user

"(Outside the Wire) truly understands the Armed Forces world from the inside - the staff are ex-forces who can relate to difficulties living in civilian world and have knowledge of the difficulties ex-service personnel can experience with regards to PTSD, mental health, and substance misuse"

The Essex Community Rehabilitation Company 

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Other resources

To understand more about the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on veterans and their loved ones, watch this BBC documentary on IPlayer CLICK HERE

Combat Stress is another charity dedicated to veterans’ mental health. The organisation conducts extensive research in their field. To view their reports CLICK HERE

I became an addict and homeless – we need mental health support more than ever Independent, February 2021

How PTSD went from ‘shell-shock’ to a recognised medical diagnosis National Geographic, June 2020
Ex-SAS soldier's lockdown suicide after PTSD struggle 'completely avoidable' The Mirror, June 2020
War hero demands better mental health services for veterans after PTSD caused breakdown Express, March 2020
Veterans' charity Combat Stress stops new referrals over funding crisis BBC News, January 2020
Veteran suicides are the 'epidemic of our time' former head of the army has warned
Telegraph, November 2019
The overwhelming number of suicidal military members, and the neglect they face Independent, July 2019
PTSD rates increase in UK military personnel, research suggests Guardian, October 2018

One hundred years on from the end of the first world war, a group of veterans in Dorset are torn between their pride in their military careers and their anger over the lack of psychological support provided to them by the Ministry of Defence. With many feeling abandoned and left to battle significant mental health issues such as PTSD alone, former soldier Andy Price decides to take matters into his own hands, launching the Veteran’s Hub, a peer-to-peer support network for veterans and their families. Over the course of a year, the Guardian's Richard Sprenger follows Andy on his journey. Watch this documentary below from The Guardian

Understanding the issues

On leaving the military there is minimal support available for former servicemen and women to deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression related to their military service. They may also find themselves exposed to problems they had experienced before service.

Someone with PTSD often relives a traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. They  may   also  have  problems  sleeping,  such  as  insomnia,  and   find

concentrating difficult. These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life. Without specialist support, it is not uncommon for a sufferer of PTSD to 'self-medicate' to alleviate the symptoms they are experiencing which can in turn lead to addiction, dangerous behaviour, relationship issues, debt and worsening mental and physical health. Suicide and death from substance misuse issues are too common a reality.

When ex-military personnel receive support from Outside The Wire, they find it refreshing to talk openly and frankly with someone who 'speaks the same language' and understands their background.

Meet the team

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Wayne Copsey
Service Manager/Recovery Practitioner

Wayne served 23 years in the RAF Regiment, and in that time was deployed on operational duties in Northern Ireland,  the Falkland Islands, the Middle East and Kosovo. After leaving the RAF Regiment, Wayne worked in various roles including as a Prison Officer and a prison healthcare professional working with prisoners with mental health and substance misuse difficulties. 

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 Justin Smith
Senior Recovery Practitioner Norfolk

Justin is a Senior Recovery Practitioner for Outside The Wire and has been a member of the team for three years. He signed up for military service with the RAF at just seventeen and served for three decades. He was deployed on numerous military operations in support of the various Middle East conflicts. In that time he witnessed colleagues and their families experiencing difficulties, so he volunteered with the SSAFA.

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John Hughes

Senior Practitioner Essex

John joined the army as a infantry soldier in 1979 and served until 2001. He joined the Outside The Wire team in September 2020 having worked previously as a military advocate for veterans and their families. Through his own personal experiences of dealing with a number of veterans charity's as a disabled veteran himself, he has gained an insight into the support on offer to ex servicemen and women.

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Mark Harris
Senior Recovery Practitioner Suffolk

Mark has been a member of the OTW team for three years. Mark joined a combat unit in the British Army aged nineteen and served for twenty three years serving in various conflicts throughout his career. Mark finished his time in the Army as the unit Welfare Officer and saw just how many personnel and their families were experiencing issues in their lives. Mark went on to work in the adult homeless sector before joining the OTW team.

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Karen Miller
Recovery Practitioner Prisons

Karen is responsible for veterans in prisons in Norfolk and Suffolk. Karen served for 38 years in the Army, the majority with the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police. Karen supports the view that some veterans experience significant difficulty in their transition from military life to mainstream society and that this coupled with undiagnosed mental health problems means an increased likelihood of them drifting into criminality and substance abuse. Karen is focussed on group and individual support and working with other veteran welfare agencies to reduce the likelihood of veterans reoffending on their release. 

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Kirsty Wilson

Affected Others Practitioner

Kirsty has been a member of the Outside The Wire team since 2017. Kirsty was born in Aldershot into a military family and spent her childhood in many locations within the UK and Germany so has an understanding of the diverse difficulty’s families face. Before outside the wire she volunteered with the Red Cross and worked with individuals with mental health disabilities and addictions within a residential setting.

As you can see from the testimonials above, the OTW team are having a  life altering impact on those that they work with. However they lost funding from a major donor at the beginning of the Covid crisis which resulted in a redundancy. It is therefore crucial that they secure funds to continue their vital work. It is expected that damage to mental health caused by the Covid crisis could last for years and Outside The Wire will see an increased demand for support.

3 minute read

Click here for Service Manager Wayne Copsey's story of his personal battle with PTSD and journey from the Army to Outside The Wire

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Associate member

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