Veteran leads Prince's Trust Leadership Programme with support from H4H

An injured Veteran has spoken of his pride at leading the very first Prince’s Trust leadership programme outside of the United Kingdom, made possible through funding from Help for Heroes.

James Ashton, 24, from Stoke-on-Trent, delivered a 12-week Team Programme in Barbados, in coordination with The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust and The Royal Barbados Police Force. He was granted £15,000 worth of funding from Help for Heroes.

While on the course, 12 young people undertook work placements, gained practical skills, delivered a community project and completed a residential week.

Former Highlander James was medically discharged from the Army in 2013.

“After I left the military, I went travelling and it wasn’t long after my return that I got a phone call asking if I’d like to take up the opportunity of working with the Prince’s Trust in Barbados,” James explained.

“It was an opportunity I happily grasped and I loved every minute of it. I managed to widen my skill set and also learnt more about the civilian lifestyle. It taught me to relax more.”

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James was medically discharged after being diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome, which began after he fractured his wrist lifting weights. He has only 60% movement in his right arm.

He previously volunteered with the Trust in the UK as an Assistant Team Leader while he was still serving. He underwent Team Leader training, which equipped him with the skills to support young people in their positive development.

“When I first got told I was leaving the Army, I went into a dark place, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me next. It was my PRO officer who lifted my spirits. He put me in touch with the Prince’s Trust and I haven’t looked back since.

“Working with the young people in Barbados, you realise how lucky you really are as they are often in a worse place. But their spirits are so high. It makes you realise that life really is what you make it.

"Seeing the difference you can make to so many young lives is incredibly rewarding. There aren't a huge amount of opportunities for young people in Barbados, so the work we did over there was really important to the community. To know I played a part in that means so much to me. I now have a completely different mind-set and approach to my recovery and life beyond it.”

Since 2010, Help for Heroes has grant funded £1 million to The Prince’s Trust to ensure our wounded, injured and sick gain valuable experience in working with young people and developing leadership skills in a civilian setting. The partnership has already supported over 160 Veterans to further develop their confidence, life skills and employability; with 14 Veterans moving directly into work across the past year alone.

Get more information about the career support we can offer you.

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Scottish Highlands are helping to heal injured Veterans' hidden wounds

An innovative organisation funded by Help for Heroes that helps injured veterans on the road to recovery through mountain challenges is setting up a base in the Scottish Highlands.

Adventure Quest UK provides a therapeutic programme of rehabilitation for Veterans in the UK who have mental health conditions or injuries as a result of their service.

Based in Cannich, near Beauly, Inverness-shire, The Adventure Quest programme gives Veterans the opportunity to learn mountain skills, such as map reading, rope work, reading weather charts, and geology. Courses – ranging from three to six days - can be adapted for those with physical injuries, including amputees.

"The course has been specifically devised for people experiencing mental ill health and delivered by people who understand the difficulties that many face when leaving the Armed Forces.”Managing director Paul Lefever said: “We run courses in Wales and the Lake District but the Scottish Highlands are so much bigger and have so much more variety. 

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Up to 12 veterans, accompanied by an Adventure Quest leader, journey into the hills on foot, by bike or canoe for a few days at a time, learning bushcraft skills alongside coping strategies to help manage their mental health.

Those seeking employment have the opportunity to mentor new course participants and meet specialist recruitment organisations that can provide them with guidance and support in finding a job.

Ian, from Angus, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011, and has benefitted so much from the trips that he is now doing his mountain leader qualification.

He said: “It’s been brilliant. The atmosphere is very relaxed. It gives me something to look forward to, I’ve got fitter, rediscovered my love of the mountains and made new friends. I've met like-minded people with a great sense of humour. We meet up and keep in touch between walks. It's one of the best things I’ve done and I can build my recovery around it.”

There are regular Introduction to Mountain Skills courses run from Cannich, Beauly in Inverness-shire. Get in touch with the team at Adventure Quest to find out more.

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Coping with the symptoms of depression

Kayleigh Hopkins, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at Help for Heroes, explains what the symptoms of depression are and how the Hidden Wounds service can help Veterans and Armed Forces families to manage the symptoms.

Depression can be described in so many different ways. You might be feeling low, down, sad, tearful or miserable and the experience of depression can be different for everyone. The symptoms below show that there is a link between negative thoughts, behaviours and physical changes when we experience depression. It can be helpful to consider your own experience of depression and how they may fit into the areas below so that you can find a way to break the cycle and start to improve your mood.

Depression Definition

Depression can often be experienced with a mixture of the following symptoms:

Physical Changes

  • Tiredness   
  • Tearful   
  • Headaches
  • Tense shoulders/neck
  • Reduced appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor concentration

 Negative thoughts

  • I’m a failure
  • I can’t be bothered
  • I give up
  • I can’t get anything right
  • I am horrible to be around

Behaviours

  • Doing less activities or things you enjoy
  • Sleeping/napping more
  • More irritable/snappy
  • Comfort eating

Coffee Cup Depression

By getting in touch with our Hidden Wounds service, we can help you discover and understand your personal cycle. We’ll then support you in developing the skills needed to start lifting your mood.

One of the most helpful ways we can do this is by remembering that is completely natural to want to do less when we feel depressed, but not forget that this can lead to difficulties in the long term.

For example, we don’t achieve things like getting dressed in the morning, leaving the house, paying bills, cleaning or doing house work, and many more which are all very common behaviours when we feel depressed. The Hidden Wounds team can support you in gradually starting to increase your activity level in certain areas, which has been shown to help improve mood.

If you’d like to find out more about getting support for depression, you can leave a confidential message for the Hidden Wounds team here. You can also call them on 0808 2020 144 or email them at hidden.wounds@helpforheroes.org.uk

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Coping with the symptoms of anxiety

Our Psychological Wellbeing Team look at the symptoms of anxiety and how Veterans and Armed Forces families can manage them.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, and it can be mild or severe. Anxiety is our natural response to threat and it is also known as ‘fight or flight’. This is a normal response that allows us to react to danger. The ‘fight or flight’ response dates back to a time when we lived with a lot of physical threats, such as wild animals. These immediate threats required us to respond quickly to either ‘fight’ the threat or enable us to escape (‘flight’). When you feel under threat your body releases hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, which help physically prepare you to either fight the danger or run away from it. These hormones are what cause anxious feelings.

Anxiety symptoms

Some of the symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Heart racing – triggered by the sudden rush of adrenalin, your heart is pumping faster to get blood and oxygen to vital organs and muscles to allow you to ‘fight’ or ‘flight’
  • Muscle tension – your body is tensing up in preparation to ‘fight or flight’
  • Blurred vision – pupils dilate in order to sharpen your vision so you can clearly see the danger
  • Pins and needles
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Urge to go to the toilet – your body is trying to get rid of excess weight so you can ‘fight or flight’
  • Sweating – your body is cooling down
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy – when you’re anxious, your blood pressure increases. Although it may feel like it, you’re unlikely to faint as that’s generally caused by decreases in blood pressure.

Hi ResThese are some of the more common symptoms of anxiety but there are many more.

Usually once you feel the danger has passed, your body releases other hormones to help your muscles relax which may cause you to shake. So even though we are living in a time with less physical threats, our body still reacts in the same way to any perceived threats.

Situations that can make you feel anxious include
:

  • Writing exams
  • Starting a new job
  • Going for a job interview
  • Relationship problems

There are several anxiety disorders including Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD which is characterised by worry), panic disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and phobias (fear of specific objects or activities, e.g. claustrophobia, agoraphobia and arachnophobia). Quite often people may find themselves avoiding the situations or objects that make them feel anxious. Although this is helpful in the short term, it can make the problem worse over time.

How to cope with anxiety?

Anxiety can be managed easily with the right skills and techniques. For self-management it is important to use breathing and relaxation techniques. These should be incorporated as part of your daily routine. Mindfulness is also a great tool in managing anxiety as it allows you to change your focus. Other helpful ways of managing anxiety include eating healthily, exercising regularly, speaking to someone and listening to music.

If you need support in managing your anxiety, our Psychological Wellbeing team are here to help. If you’re a Veteran or an Armed Forces family member, click here to leave a confidential message for the team. You can also call them on 0808 2020 144 or email hidden.wounds@helpforheroes.org.uk

Sources:

Mind website

Centre for Clinical Interventions website

Anxietyhappens.com

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Daniel's story

Former Corporal, Daniel Grobler, served with the Army Air Corp and served tours in Germany, Brunei, Iraq and Afghanistan throughout his military career.

Daniel always wanted to join the military and said it was “in his blood” from a very young age.

It was whilst serving in Brunei that Daniel was involved in a road traffic accident returning from work on his motorbike when a vehicle pulled out from behind a lorry to overtake, colliding with the motorbike and dragging Daniel 50 meters down the road.

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He was flown to Headley Court from Brunei to begin his rehabilitation and after a very challenging period where he had to overcome the physical injuries following the accident, he also started to struggle with his mental health.

It was here that he was encouraged to try sport as part of his recovery, having been very active prior to the accident.

“The sports I do have helped me at opposite ends of the spectrum; archery helps me focus and takes away anything going on in my head. Wheelchair rugby provides me with a way of venting anger and working out my frustrations.” Daniel secured a place on the UK team at the inaugural Invictus Games in London in 2014 and again in 2016.

He does still miss military life, the camaraderie. He has a new job which is a positive step, but it is challenging and difficult for Daniel to adapt to life as a civilian. “The Army was amazing, but you only realise after how much you miss it. Getting involved with Help for Heroes has helped me get back into sport and this has helped me no end with the physical and psychological problems that I face.”

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“My family has been affected; when I came back from Afghanistan it put a lot of strain on them. My injuries have changed me, I’m short tempered and there’s a different side to me now. Sport has helped me to build relationships back up; it’s a way for me to not take my frustrations out on my family.”

Daniel says Help for Heroes has become a massive part of his life.

The charity has supported him with a grant for archery equipment, enabling him to train and also to teach his daughter Megan, who now enjoys archery with her dad. His wife is a Band of Sister and has enjoyed a respite weekend at Tedworth House, where she spoke with others in a similar position and made friends, and importantly it was a chance for her to relax. She is taking part in the Burma Trek fundraising for the charity later this year.

“Getting the support has brought my stress levels down, going away for training and meeting others in a similar position has helped socially, psychologically. Whilst not everyone is in the same position we can understand and share our experiences.”

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For anyone that is perhaps wondering whether to take that next step and ask for help, Daniel says: “Don’t sit at home, you’re not alone. As a group the military are very good at bottling things away but this culture needs to change. For many years I was proud, not wanting to show fear or that I was broken or hurting, but I encourage people to take that next step.”

“It’s not a sign of weakness to get help. Help for Heroes have really helped me and my family along the way.”

He suggests looking out for things that he recognised before taking that step and asking for help. “Anxiety was a big thing for me, I was always such a confident person but anxiety changed my life and I tried to fight it for too long. Depression is another, I noticed that things that used to bring me joy didn’t anymore, and I was left in a dark place. These might be things you recognise in yourself and if so, I’d really urge you to reach out for help.”

Click here if you need support.

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