For most veterans, the transition from the military to civilian life is smooth, however, some feel strong emotions that might stem from operational experiences or when going through such marked transition. These might include anger, fear, worry, and sadness when they return home.
Anxiety can reveal itself through both physical and emotional symptoms, so it is important to manage and improve feelings of anxiety and prevent them from developing into a more serious mental health problem.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May) is ‘anxiety’ and veterans’ charity Launchpad is backing a campaign by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness with its veterans and encourage them to speak out and share their experiences of anxiety.
Launchpad provides an extensive range of accommodation and services, with the help of specialist providers, to support homeless veterans who have fallen on hard times and have found the transition from military to civilian life difficult.
Each year, the charity encourages residents to complete an annual survey which helps to track the progress of support and the services it delivers to veterans across a wide range of measures including skills, employability, self-confidence, and optimism.
In its latest survey (2023), 64 veterans completed the survey with 61% reporting they couldn’t get the help they needed before arriving at Launchpad while 56% said they felt there was nobody or organisation to help them while 35% said they felt abandoned by the country they served. All of these feelings and experiences lead to loneliness and anxiety.
In the same survey, residents are asked how they feel after living in one of Launchpad’s three houses in Newcastle, Liverpool and Durham. 95% agreed they received help they couldn’t get elsewhere, 95% agreed they felt better about themselves and their wellbeing and 90% felt more optimistic about life.
As part of the campaign, experienced staff from Launchpad will be raising awareness to encourage veterans to have confidence in talking about any feelings of anxiety and to understand support is available should they need it.
Kate Riley, Specialist Case Worker at Launchpad’s Speke House in Liverpool, said:
“Many of Launchpad’s residents have mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to service and non-service-related PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
“Part of my role is to help residents with their mental health and provide one-to-one support. We always support campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week and we encourage residents to talk about problems they are experiencing and to take part in activities that will support and improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“It’s important residents feel confident in speaking to me or any other member of staff about how they feel. It’s better to be open and let them get it off their chest rather than just build it up and feeling more anxious.
“We’ll be raising awareness of the campaign throughout the week and have organised some activities to encourage the residents to get involved so they feel they can talk to us. This includes breakfast with information on mental health and anxiety, a walk along the beach at Crosby and we’ll be holding a group workshop with therapists to focus on anxiety and mental health and mindfulness.”
Alexa Charnley, Director of Fundraising and Communications at the Mental Health Foundation, said:
“We all experience anxiety but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem. However, there are things we can do to manage feelings of anxiety and stop them becoming overwhelming. For example, breathing exercises, physical activity, speaking to a trusted friend, or keeping a diary. You can find more information and guidance on our website mentalhealth.org.uk.
“This Mental Health Awareness Week we’re encouraging everyone to get involved by sharing their experiences of anxiety and the things that help with the hashtag #ToHelpMyAnxiety. We hope people all over the UK will take part and help us to normalise conversations about anxiety and mental health. We hope the week helps people to feel more confident in talking about anxiety and how it affects them. Most importantly, we hope people understand more about what they can do to manage anxiety and what other support is available.”
For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, please visit mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw or join the conversation on social media using #ToHelpMyAnxiety and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek