TimeBank mentoring helps veterans adjust to life on Civvy Street

Ex-service men and women recovering from PTSD and other mental health issues said they felt more positive about their lives after taking part in a mentoring project run by national volunteering charity TimeBank.

In an external evaluation of the Shoulder to Shoulder project by Órla Cronin Research, they describe how having a volunteer mentor made them feel less isolated and brought new trust and hope for the future.

The evaluation found that many service veterans were in a state of crisis in their lives, with complex and multifaceted problems including financial hardship, homelessness, alcohol dependency, physical health problems and mental health issues including depression, anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. 

Mentoring helped to alleviate their stress and isolation and to overcome daily challenges like taking public transport, budgeting and exercising. Some were able to start training and job hunting. Their ability to think optimistically about the future, both in setting goals, and in taking small steps towards those goals, improved over the course of the project.   

The Shoulder to Shoulder project was launched in London in October 2010 and extended to Birmingham in November 2011. Over three years it will recruit and train 250 volunteer mentors to provide friendship and practical support, enhancing recovery and helping veterans make a successful transition to civilian life.

The project is the first peer mentoring project in the UK which supports ex-service men and women with mental health problems in this way. It is supported by Combat Stress and The Royal British Legion as a highly effective complement to the clinical treatments offered by other agencies. 

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of TimeBank, said: “Nearly 20% of ex-service men and women returning to civilian life have a mental health problem resulting from traumas and injuries they experienced during active service. Their lives can unravel once they leave the Forces and far too many end up on the streets or in prison. Shoulder to Shoulder aims to provide the support they need to positively change their lives. I’m delighted that this external evaluation has demonstrated the effectiveness of mentoring support.”  

A full copy of the evaluation report is available at www.timebank.org.uk/shoulder-to-shoulder/how-does-it-help