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From Bravery to Vulnerability: our men and women in uniform

Written by Holly Campion, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Service Delivery Manager, specialising in mental health and wellbeing.

In September 2020 Offploy expanded their service to assist veterans. Whether that be military or police veterans, the aim is to help them find meaningful and sustainable employment following convictions. This service cannot be underestimated, as often our men and women in these uniforms are seen with glory and respect whilst they wear the uniform but when they no longer have that role they can fall to the wayside.

Offploy has worked really hard to ensure we can assist these veterans with interview skills and helping make them attractive to employers. Finding a job in these stressful times can be difficult for anyone; even for someone with the utmost experience in a particular area.

An important part of re-integrating into society is finding employment, building confidence and for some of these veterans of the cloth, making sustainable roots. Something that we should not underestimate is how a state of healthy mental well-being can really assist you in these areas.

Society is forever learning in this modern age that an un-happy mind can debilitate you in so many ways. We often focus on the mental health of the vulnerable in society, so I wanted this article to cast an eye on the mental health of those who are not seen as 'vulnerable' per say.

When you think of our protective/emergency services personnel, some of the attributes that may come to mind are courageous, strength, resilience, and bravery. Without a doubt these attributes apply, and I would applaud our police, firefighters, prison officers and army men and women amongst many more for all that they do for society throughout their career. These attributes most probably fill these professionals with pride, and whilst they are noble attributes, they can sometimes create a label and a barrier that can be difficult to stray from. If you are someone that has always been viewed as brave and strong due to the uniform, you put on when you go to work it can be very hard to reach out and be the opposite to those close to you or to society in general. We must remember that our men and women in uniform are humans too and particularly the above-mentioned professions frequently face very difficult and harrowing circumstances throughout their daily working lives. As a society, individuals and organisations should normalise emotional vulnerability and normalise those front-line professions reaching out for help. It’s worth highlighting that there are various mental health supports available internally and externally for veterans, policemen and women, firefighters, armed forces.

A time when these emotions of anxiety, vulnerability, depression amongst other feelings can come to the forefront is when their career has come to an end. Whether this be through retirement or dismissal; stepping away from such a role inevitably leads a lot of time for reflection. This reflection may bring some joy and pride and even make them feel sentimental as we would suspect but for some the reflection may lead to a realisation of all they have seen and done throughout their career. It would be very reasonable to assume this would leave an individual feeling disconnected and perhaps down or anxious. Reaching out for support to help process the events of your career or even the events of one day takes courage, strength, and bravery.

If a veteran of any uniform takes the time to address these negative emotions, they may be feeling about their past career it may help them become more content in the employment or role they take on next. It can be very difficult to adjust to a new life and adjust to being viewed differently through society's eyes.

You can go from being the respected and brave policeman to the man that works in the local and there is not one thing wrong with that.

Some may enjoy this change in their life and find it fills them with joy whilst others may struggle and miss the label they once had and the uniform they once wore. This can be particularly true for those who have faced a dishonourable dismissal and may feel that they cannot openly reflect on the career that they once had. But so what? The dismissal should not permanently define an individual or their career outlook. Their career can be defined by all their brave actions and by their hard work.

This is an area of interest to me both academically and personally. I have a Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice, and I have worked in the mental health sector for 2 and a half years. Every day revolves around ensuring we provide the best opportunities to those that are in need and in my opinion, there is something we can all do to help someone vulnerable. Everyone has the strength and the kindness within themselves to support others.

Below are some organisations that veterans can reach out to for support:

Police Care UK

0300 012 0030 – Charity serving veteran police officers and staff, volunteers and their families. They are independent of the police service.

ABF The Soldier’s Charity

020 7901 8900 - They provide financial assistance to retired soldiers

and their families.

Combat Stress -

0800 138 1619 - Combat Stress helps former servicemen and women deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. It provides specialist treatment and support for veterans from every service and conflict to give them hope and a future.

0800 260 6767 - Support is available for people at any stage in their military career; from the youngest recruit to the oldest veteran – no one’s service is ever forgotten. We have more than 5,000 trained SSAFA volunteers who provide personalised, face-to-face support to those in their local area.

NHS Mental Health Services for Veterans -

You can get in touch through your GP or call yourself via the below numbers dependent on your area.

South East England – 02394 387 924

South West England – 0300 365 2000

East of England England – 0300 323 0137

London – 020 3317 6818

The Midlands and East of England – 0300 323 0137

North of England – 0800 652 2867


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