As part of National Mentoring Day, Help for Heroes mentors have spoken about the benefits of helping wounded, injured and sick veterans forge a new life for themselves outside of the Armed Forces.
Stacy Collins, a Front of House Manager with Mitie Client Services in Birmingham, said being a mentor on the Help for Heroes Pathfinder Experience is “the most rewarding” thing she has ever been involved in.
Her husband left the army in 2010 suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggled to adapt to life outside the army. She witnessed first-hand the emotional struggle that individuals and their families face and wanted others to know there are ways to help.
“My husband spent two years struggling before seeking professional help but after finding support he has improved his mind set and adapted fully to life outside the army.
“His is a great success story but his journey made me think about people leaving the army that don’t have any support or family and how hard it would be for them to make the adjustment. When I first heard about the Help for Heroes mentor programme, I knew straight away it was exactly what I’d been looking for.
“Following my three day training, I was matched with Liam, an ex-marine who had suffered with PTSD and was struggling to put his life in order and find what he wanted to do. I have a call with Liam every Monday where we try to set goals for the week and an update call on a Friday to find out how the week’s been. Often it’s just about having someone to talk to about his life and how he’s feeling but Liam wanted to get back into personal training and didn’t have the confidence, so I arranged some shadowing for him at a local gym. This really improved his confidence and made him get back in the gym, keeping fit and clearing his mind.
“When we first met six months ago he didn’t have a place to live, a job, or structure in his life, and had such low confidence. He called me yesterday to let me know he’d been offered a job, he’s going to the gym every day, has taken up a new sport and now has a place to live. He has made massive improvements in his life and is looking to the future. It’s rewarding to know that even though I play only a small part in his life, he values my support and thanks me every time we talk. It’s just as rewarding for me as it is for him.
“I would recommend anyone to take part in this programme as it’s not about what you know, or the connections you have, it’s about supporting people through a tough time and finding out what they need from you. In my case it’s a listening ear and a pep talk when Liam was feeling low and I’ve learnt I’m really quite good at that.”
Another mentor, Martin Dewhurst, a Project Manager, was matched with veteran Tommy Lowther, a PTSD sufferer who has since gone on to launch his own successful charity, Sporting Force. Martin explained: “Tommy is an inspiring character with a massive heart. Knowing I have made a difference in his life is massive for me. We are on this path together and I am very proud to be walking alongside him.”
Former Sapper Ian McGill is a mentor to veteran Dave Wilkins, who served for eight years with the Royal Regiment of Wales before picking up a serious knee injury.
Ian explained: “We meet once a month and just reassess where he is in relation to where he ultimately wants to be. Being a good mentor means being able to listen, give a different perspective and be emphatic. It is not about pushing them, it is about nudging them and respect what they need.
“The country owes people like Dave and I’m glad to be able to give something back to him. From when I first met him 12 months ago to now, he is happier, calmer and more confident. To think I helped play even a small part in that change is both humbling and rewarding.”
A mentor can be from all walks of life, civilian and ex-military, and will be a good listener, supporter, challenger, helper and friend. We recognise that, at times, veterans may feel isolated and lonely; a mentor can keep them engaged. During a transition period, veterans need vision and direction and a mentor offers support and guidance.