Loughborough University: Military veterans praise ‘life changing’ support programme

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Created by the University and the Royal Air Forces Association, the resilience programme invited small groups of veterans onto campus for a five-day residential stay.

During their stay they took part in range of activities, including social resilience workshops, practical healthy cooking lessons, sessions on improving sleep quality and team-based physical activity such as wheelchair basketball, walking football and pilates.

All the activities were specifically designed to enhance the mental wellbeing of attendees.

The project was conceived and led by Wing Commander (Retd) Dr Craig White, from Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, with support from Dr Jamie Barker, Dr Kristen Clements and Dr Chris McLeod. It was designed following a consultation with veterans and was open to former members of all three military services – the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force – who are suffering with mental wellbeing issues.

The inaugural programme was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, as part of its Positive Pathways Programme.

Speaking about his time on the programme, veteran Mark Eyres said: “When you are struggling with your mental health you lose sight of what is important – sleeping, eating, friendship.

“For me, this course was life changing. We need to ensure that other veterans who are struggling can access this amazing programme, so I would urge any organisation that can help fund the continuation of this vital project to get in touch.”

Dr White said: “It was a true honour to be able to host 16 veterans on the Loughborough campus and provide them with support and life skills that will make a real difference to their quality of life. Seeing what an impact it has had on the attendees makes the whole team even more determined to find further funding. We would encourage anyone who thinks they can help support this incredible programme to get in touch.”

Rory O’Connor, the RAF Association’s Director of Welfare and Wellbeing, said: “We are delighted that the courses are having such a positive impact on veterans’ wellbeing, and it is our hope that the programme will continue.”

Talks are already under way to run further veteran support programmes at the campus in 2023.

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