We all experience feelings of social isolation at times, but it can hit veterans particularly hard.
Leaving behind their military family, the sense of camaraderie and adjusting to civilian life can be challenging.
For those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), avoiding people can be a way of managing their hypervigilance - a heightened state of assessing potential threats around you. For others, withdrawing from society can act as a bit of a safety net. However, doing so can make people’s mental health worse.
Often those experiencing the strongest feelings of isolation are the least likely to ask for help, which is where the local community can assist.
“The community is key in helping to identify those who are struggling, so we can step in to offer them support; they won’t come forward themselves.” Sarah Hattle, Project Case Manager, Help for Heroes
How to spot the signs of withdrawal and isolation
Watch out for behaviour that suggests someone may be struggling. For example:
- not answering phone calls
- no longer attending events
- unwillingness to engage in conversation
- they seem sad or unmotivated
- not opening their curtains or answering their doors.
Encouraging a veteran or family member to take the first step in reaching out for support is integral to their recovery, not least in realising they are not alone in the problems they face. The best way for someone to become part of their local community is to participate in an event or activity they enjoy, aiding friendships and peer support.
We link veterans, their families and the community together by offering a wide range of activities, support and ways to get involved, both online and in person.
“Our Sport, Activity and Fellowship service provides eligible veterans and their families with a safe, non-judgemental environment in which they can socialise, join local events, take part in activities and build a support network with like-minded individuals. This can help people maintain a healthy state of overall wellbeing, and prevent deterioration as a result of feeling disconnected. The programme is inclusive, varied and is often the gateway to wider support.” Sarah Hackett, Head of Sport, Activity and Fellowship, Help for Heroes.
As well as a wide range of adaptive sports, social events, arts and craft sessions, and recreational activities , veterans and family members can join the Help for Heroes Choir and our Band of Brothers and Sisters groups.