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During Mental Health Awareness Week (9-13 May) we launched a campaign to recruit military veterans to support their comrades in a ‘Buddy’ scheme designed to help combat isolation and loneliness.

The pilot scheme is being driven by our Loneliness and Isolation Project Manager, Sarah Hattle, and will cover the whole of Wales.

She explained: “The purpose of the Buddy scheme is to connect socially isolated and/or lonely beneficiary veterans with a volunteer veteran who has fully transitioned and is a member of their local community. The Buddy will provide companionship and emotional support while helping the beneficiary become involved with their local or wider communities.”

While the scheme is open only to our beneficiaries who want support, the voluntary role of Buddy is open to anybody in Wales who has been in the UK Armed Forces.

The pilot scheme is being driven by our Loneliness and Isolation Project Manager, Sarah Hattle - Help for Heroes

In 2020, 12,299 personnel left the UK Armed Forces1, and the vast majority made their transition to civilian life effectively. This scheme is about utilising some of the amazing talent from this vast majority, to help the very small minority who are struggling to integrate into the communities where they now live.

Our data2 has shown that 67 per cent of its beneficiaries find making meaningful connections in the community a daily challenge, while the figure rises to 77 per cent for those living alone. And it is these people Hattle aims to help with the new Buddy scheme.

She added: “We are looking for previous members of the UK Armed Forces to volunteer as Buddies.  They will receive comprehensive training, and, on completion of the training, we will look to match them with a beneficiary.

“Anybody interested in volunteering as a Buddy can get in touch with me directly, at Sarah.Hattle@helpforheroes.org.uk.”

Mental Health Awareness Week – created by the Mental Health Foundation, 21 years ago – is an annual event providing an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. Each year the Foundation continues to set the theme, organise, and host the week, and the event has grown to become one of the biggest awareness campaigns across the world.

References: 1 Harding M, Dempsey, N, 2021; 2 Help for Heroes’ 2021 Veterans’ and Families Survey.