I am very passionate about anything that relates to the armed forces, especially around mental health. My husband left the army in 2010 suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggled to adapt to life outside the army. I witnessed first-hand the emotional struggle that individuals and their families face and I want others to know there are ways we can 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. With the support of his family he’s just completed a full year in college and secured a place at Coventry University to study Physiotherapy.
His is a great success story but his journey has 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. I started raising money for PTSD Resolution, who provide free counselling to ex services men and women suffering with PTSD, and at the beginning of the year I attended a Mitie Foundation Forum where I first heard about the Help for Hero’s Volunteering Programme. I knew straight away it was exactly what I’d been looking for.
In the programme you act as a mentor for an ex services man or woman (Pathfinders as they are called on the programme) for around a year, depending on how you and your pathfinder want to work together. I completed three days training at Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Tidworth and it honestly was one of the best things I have ever been part of. The team were so nice and make you feel so welcome and I learnt coaching skills that I could bring back to the work place.
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 of Dragan boat racing and now has a place to live. He has made massive improvements in his life and is looking to the future. He wants to go to university next year and I will continue to support him. 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.
Stacy Collins is a Front of House Manager with Mitie Client Services and is based in Birmingham
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