Despite tackling their own mental health problems, some of Launchpad’s veteran residents have been helping each other and giving back to their local communities by carrying out acts of kindness during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Residents have been giving up their own time to volunteer with community projects to help those in need, particularly vulnerable and local isolated people during lockdown.

This week’s Mental Health Awareness Week raises awareness and the importance of supporting people with mental health. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, the week-long campaign focuses on specific themes. Since it was launched in 2001, they have raised awareness on topics such as body image, stress and relationships.

This year’s theme is kindness and is a response to the Coronavirus outbreak, which is having a big impact on people’s mental health.

Many of the residents living at Launchpad’s Avondale House in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Speke House in Liverpool have mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to service and non-service-related PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Launchpad provides accommodation and targeted support, with the assistance of specialist providers, to help homeless veterans stabilise their lives and make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

Residents at both houses also participate in a programme of activities to improve their mental health and wellbeing such as mindfulness, arts projects, music lessons and outdoor sports.

Those [residents] who feel they are ready to give back to communities have also volunteered to re-engage as part of their transition journey.

Drew who lives at Launchpad’s Avondale House in Byker, served nine years in The Parachute Regiment and has been volunteering to help Family Gateway to deliver food parcels such as home cooked meals and is also part of Team Rubicon assisting in mortuary duties. By volunteering with Team Rubicon, is had given him a renewed sense of purpose and an opportunity to use the skills and experiences he has learned to benefit others.

Another resident, Michael who lives at Speke House in Liverpool, has volunteered to get essential food supplies for his fellow residents. Michael completed ten years in Army Catering Corps and served tours of Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He has been helping other residents, particularly those who have been self-isolating, ensuring they are safe and well during lockdown.

David Shaw, CEO and Co-founder of Launchpad, said:

“Many of our resident veterans have mental health challenges and we always try to give them the support they need. We talk to them, we listen, we signpost them to our partners who are qualified to help with their health and welfare.

“Mental health awareness is all around us 24/7 – we are always there to support our residents and I think Mental Health Awareness Week should be celebrated; it is an opportunity to reassure those who may be experiencing mental health issues, that there is always someone there to talk to and help them.

“It is fitting that this years’ theme is kindness. We’ve seen a lot of that recently, particularly during the lockdown where people have come together and supported one another, helping those who need it most. Despite their own mental health issues, I was delighted to hear that Drew and Michael have volunteered to give back to their local communities. Others are gardening and cooking to help their community. It is heartening to see that the veterans have risen to the challenges brought about by the pandemic.”