Each year, the World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

The aim of the day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. It gives charities such as Launchpad, the opportunity to raise awareness of the work it does to support veterans by working with and supporting them on their mental health issues.

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). Some need help with addictions to gambling, alcohol and drugs.

We have two full-time specialist case workers who work full time in each house to help residents with their mental health and provide one-to-one support. Last year, Ann Rees was appointed as a specialist case worker at Avondale House. Due to the success of her appointment and the impact this had with residents, Launchpad also appointed Kate Riley into a similar role at Speke House.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including veterans, health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.

Prior to Covid-19, residents accessed face-to-face mental health support, but whilst in lockdown, waiting lists increased and certain providers only offered support via telephone or video. Following the appointments of Ann and Kate, Launchpad was able to continue to provide one-to-one support to many of its residents during the pandemic.

Launchpad encourages residents to talk about problems they are experiencing, and to take part in activities that support their mental health and wellbeing.

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.

Although we organise and provide activities for residents to particulate in all-year round, we have organised a week of activities in the lead up to World Mental Health Day.

For example, a week of activities has been organised at Avondale House including cycling trips, alpaca trekking, fishing, veterans’ breakfasts, a walk along the beach, quiz and games night, visit to the gym and a day trip with lunch. At Speke House, residents will be able to visit the allotment, enjoy playing pool and benefit from veterans’ breakfasts.

Sam Hughes, Assistant Manager (Projects) at Avondale House said:

“It is important our residents are kept busy and active and we provide activities that they will enjoy and engage in. We organise activities all year round, not just for World Mental Health Day. Feedback from residents has been really positive and they often comment that the activities and events are stimulating and good for their mental health.”