Shoulder To Shoulder A New Initiative For Combat Stress
Combat stress is a side effect of living daily with the threat of death, seeing your friends die violently and killing the enemy. Unlike a bullet or shrapnel wound Combat Stress leaves no visible marks on the person just an internal mental battle of survivors guilt, guilt at your actions, the faces of those you have killed haunt your dreams and the deaths of your friends replayed in slow motion, eventually you fear sleep becuase of the dreams.
One of the more brutal and ironic facts about war is that wars continues killing people long after the last shot was fired and everyone has gone home.
More people who saw combat in the Falklands war have committed suicide since the war ended, than were killed action.
In this country we have to date a pretty bad record at taking care of people who have fought and protected our way of life. The number of ex-service people who are homeless and substance dependant is a shocking scandal of the highest order.
There is however some good news with a new initiative Shoulder To Shoulder which is best described in their own words:
Shoulder to Shoulder is a mentoring project matching volunteers with ex-service men and women who are recovering from mental illness.
Every year, a third of ex-service men and women experience mental illness related to their time in the military. What they’ve gone through can bring about anxiety disorders, depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
This doesn’t just make adjusting to life after the military difficult. It can cause homelessness, unemployment, loneliness, lack of direction or relationship and health problems – one often leading to another.
There’s a lack of mental health services to help. Added to this, ex-servicemen and women are often reluctant to get support from professionals who they feel won’t understand what they’ve been through.
This is where Shoulder to Shoulder comes in.
This is a pilot project, so it’s just based in London at the moment. We’ll match volunteers who have a military background with ex-servicemen and women recovering from mental illness – focusing on ex-servicemen and women from the army.
As a volunteer you will have also served in the military or have experience of friends and family that have done so.
It’s informal but tailored to the needs of the individual, so you’ll set goals at the beginning so you both have something to aim for.
How often do you meet?
You’ll meet on a one-to-one basis for five hours a month for at least six months to a year. It’s flexible too, so once you’ve been matched you can meet when and where suits you both – ideally somewhere neutral.
Will you get training?
You (volunteer mentors) and the ex-servicemen and women you support will get trained. We’ll tell you more about what’s involved, goal-setting and of course, how we will support you through your relationship.
How do you get matched?
The project is unique in that it’s the first mentoring project for ex-servicemen and women that are matched with volunteers who have been through very similar experiences. This makes the matching process simpler – you will already have a connection based on experience.
However, the project manager will also look at other criteria and will have met everyone at training so will use this to make sure it’s a good match.