By Major (Retired) Peter Shergold –
Trustee at Advocacy Matters
In the UK there are 2.4 million people who are veterans, of these 74,000 live in the Birmingham area. A veteran is someone who served in the armed forces, regular or reserve, in the past. When we think of veterans, we often think of the old soldiers marching on remembrance Sunday, but veterans are very diverse, of all genders, backgrounds and ages. Many of the veterans in Birmingham served in the armies of other countries too.
The armed forces provide a positive, fun and life changing experience for many who serve or who have served. Armed Forced Day gives a much valued morale boost for those who served and serve, and gives the public a chance to show this. Over the last year we have seen huge numbers of service personnel support the NHS in the pandemic. Yet again when the country calls they are there for us.
Service is hard for many, especially those who have served in conflict zones. Since 1914 there has not been a year where British forces personnel have not served in a war zone. Stress and difficult times affect people differently, but it has been shown that the most likely time to be impacted is not at the time, but up to seven years afterwards. This is often combined with the changes of moving into civilian society, with the loss of friends and limited contact with their family in many cases. Social exclusion and isolation is the reality for many former service personnel, who are often recruited from some of the most impoverished areas of society.
Here are some striking facts about veterans:
- The NHS states than a veteran is half as likely to ask for mental health support
- Around two veterans a week choose to end their lives
- Middle aged men from disadvantages backgrounds are the most likely to suffer with mental health challenges
So what can you do?
If you see a veteran, stop and talk to them. As them about their service, what regiment they were in, where did they travel too. Take time to speak to members of your family or friends who have served. If you are unsure of how to get help for a veteran, go to the Royal British Legion (www.britishlegion.org.uk/) If they can not help directly, they are excellent at signposting where to go for support.
So this Armed Forces Day, reach out and say hello to a veteran, and discover the wonderful adventures they had and places they travelled.
Advocacy Matters can also support disabled veterans to access social care services- follow the link to make a referral.
Follow this link for the Royal British Legion