With our recovery centres closed, many of those we support are missing their “safe space”, where they can connect with others going through recovery journeys similar to their own.
That’s why Lucy in our Fellowships team has been working hard since the coronavirus pandemic began to keep our veterans connected “virtually”. Lucy and her team, who would normally work from our Phoenix House recovery centre in Catterick, have been running online get-togethers for veterans and their loved ones across the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“I’ve spoken to many veterans and family members who are struggling to keep motivated and focussed during these difficult times and struggling to find their purpose – which can have a big impact on their mental health,” explains Lucy. “They also miss meeting up with other veterans or family members, so the virtual meetups have helped people stay connected and continue that sense of camaraderie.”
Lucy and her team acted fast to keep those we support feeling safe and connected when our recovery centres were forced to close in March. They now run up to six virtual meetups a week, giving veterans the opportunity to talk about how they have been coping with lockdown and learning to navigate a ‘new normal’. One in five say feeling lonely has been the hardest part of the experience and even as restrictions begin to ease, many continue to worry about what their future will look like.
“The feedback has been extremely rewarding”, says Lucy. “When we hear from a veteran or a family member who is feeling alone, and you connect them with others who understand and you see the relief on their faces, that’s when you know we’re doing great things. One told me how after being in a low place, the calls with fellow veterans had brought them hope again.”
More than 100 new veterans and loved ones have signed up to join our Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters Fellowship groups, which are 12,000-strong, since the start of the lockdown, and they’ve even attracted a few very special guests - Help for Heroes patrons Loraine Kelly, Ross Kemp and Anthony Cotton have all joined various get-togethers to offer our wounded words of support and encouragement during these difficult times.
And while Lucy is keen to get back to delivering face to face support to veterans and their families when our recovery centres re-open, the virtual get-togethers have proven so popular that she and her team are keen to continue with them in the long-term, alongside the face-to-face support they are used to delivering. Particularly as more veterans who are struggling with the effects of the pandemic continue to come forward.
“A lot of veterans are worried about how long it might stop them from accessing medical appointments or services at our recovery centres,” explains Lucy. “Some are feeling isolated and finding it difficult not being able to talk to others in a safe space about how they are feeling.
There are also family members who seriously suffering silently in the background holding the family together needing our support as well.”
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If you are a wounded veteran or loved one looking for support or advice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.