Loughborough and Royal Air Forces Association to lead new support programme for UK military veterans

Loughborough University and the Royal Air Forces Association are leading a new project offering military veterans who have issues with their mental wellbeing specialist courses, aimed at enhancing their social resilience and overall welfare.

Starting in 2021, four courses with 12 attendees each will be run at the Loughborough Campus, with a mix of residential stays and one-day sessions. The veterans will take 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 yoga.

The project is being funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, as part of its Positive Pathways Programme. The programme funds projects that provide regional activities to veterans who have issues with their mental wellbeing.

The University and the Royal Air Forces Association, the national charity that supports former and serving RAF personnel and their dependants, are working with several partners to deliver the courses. These include: The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund; the Royal British Legion; Charnwood, Melton and the Rushcliffe Borough Councils and Rutland County Council; and the NHS Transition Intervention Liaison Service East Midlands.

The project was conceived and is being led by Wing Commander Craig White, a PhD student in the Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, with support from Dr Jamie Barker and Dr Kristen Clements. It was designed following a consultation with veterans and is 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.

Speaking about the programme, Wing Commander Craig White said: “I am delighted this incredibly important project has been funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust. There is a fantastic partnership working on this, and together we can make a real positive difference to the lives of those veterans struggling with their mental wellbeing.

“The importance of this project has been further emphasised by the experience of veterans suffering from increased mental health issues, loneliness, and social isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Rory O’Connor, Director of Welfare and Policy at the Royal Air Forces Association added: “There is a wealth of published evidence that suggests sport, exercise and physical activity enhance mental wellbeing, reducing the risk of mental illness. Through this innovative programme and working in partnership with other military charities, NHS and Local Authorities, we aim to enhance the mental wellbeing of RAF veterans by strengthening their social, physical, and psychological resilience.”

RAF Benevolent Fund researcher, Dr Hannah Brooking said: “Being resilient is imperative to maintaining positive mental wellbeing. This exciting project will complement the work our Community Engagement Workers are doing with veterans in the East Midlands living with stress.”

Victoria Coomber, Armed Forces Community Covenant Development Officer for Charnwood, Melton and Rushcliffe Borough Councils commented: “The Charnwood, Melton and Rushcliffe Borough Councils Armed Forces Covenant Project is delighted to have been involved in supporting this successful bid to the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund.  Due to the unique, and sometimes challenging lifestyle of military personnel, some veterans can experience mental health challenges. This new Resilience Programme being run at Loughborough University will make a real difference and help veterans build life skills and strategies which will support them into leading full and active lives.”