RFEA launches new initiative to tackle veteran suicide

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity has launched a brand new campaign, One is Too Many, in a new drive to tackle veteran suicide as part of its Project Nova programme. Project Nova is a specialist initiative which offers tailored support to some of the country’s most vulnerable veterans.

For most veterans, the transition to civilian life is usually successful. Sadly, for some, the transition can be less smooth and factors such as housing problems and homelessness, debt, health issues e.g. mental illness and PTSD, or drug and alcohol misuse, can lead some veterans to be at risk of offending, or experiencing vulnerabilities.

The charity has created the One is Too Many campaign in response to a rising correlation between veterans who were deemed at risk of suicide and those who had either already been arrested, or were considered likely to offend, as identified through its Project Nova programme.

With the One is Too Many campaign, the charity is hoping to increase its reach to the most vulnerable veterans. To do this, the charity has created a unique programme of tailored support and signposting, designed by its team which has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the unique needs of those who have served.

Activity includes:

  • Launch of a dedicated microsite containing:
    • A unique toolbox of resources to help veterans cope with their mental health, and to take positive steps to improve it
    • Information on where to find your nearest NHS crisis centre
    • How to recognise PTSD and how to access help for it
    • Advice on how to help someone else
    • Message of hope campaign including videos of those who have survived suicide attempts and suicidal ideation
    • Details of how to contact the Project Nova team and make a referral
  • Staff training to support those at risk of suicide
  • Creation of new resources such as crisis cards, information leaflets and positive playing cards

Colin Back, Project Nova National Manager at RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, says: “Suicide within the military community is a sensitive but important topic that needs to be approached and discussed in an honest, yet supportive way. Thanks to the generosity of the Armed Forces Covenant Trust who kindly funded this project, the One is Too Many programme aims to lead that, potentially life-saving, conversation.

“Veterans have often led very different lives to the civilian population. A Military career and the experiences that go with it are totally unique – from the housing and community they live in, to the types of jobs they do. These can be completely separate to civilian life and can even begin in childhood for those raised in a Forces family. As a result, veterans can sometimes be reluctant to engage with general support services that don’t factor in these unique experiences. Ex-Forces often feel, and some experience, that civilian services will not understand them and be able to provide the help that they need. That is why is so important to create a campaign for veterans that has been designed by those who really understand where they are coming from, their needs and unique challenges, from those who can offer tailored help without judgement.”

Nigel Bateson MBE served in the Army before becoming a BBC war zone cameraman, working with renowned correspondents Kate Adie and Martin Bell MBE. Sadly, Nigel began to struggle with alcohol misuse, culminating in him being arrested on Christmas Eve 2020. At this point he was asked if he had ever served in the Military and his details were passed to the Project Nova team who got in touch with him immediately. Since then, Nigel has received extensive help from Project Nova, from finding housing and support for debt issues, employment and training skills development, through to offering extensive advice when he found himself in crisis.

Commenting on his Project Nova case worker, Helen, he says: “Helen’s voice became the light that led me out of my darkness. And it wasn’t just phone calls and advice. Helen worked tirelessly behind the scenes emailing and achieving so much for my benefit. Because of Helen’s tireless dedication, I and so many others in her care, are still here to enjoy another sunrise. My children have a loving father back in their lives. I have a new home which has been furnished with Helen’s and Project Nova’s support and I have once again become a useful member of society and am now able to help others.”

Mark Watson, 52, served in the British Army from the age of 16 in the Royal Engineers. He struggled after leaving the Military and found himself in police custody. Upon arrest, having established that Mark had Served, the desk Sergeant presented him with a leaflet for Project Nova. Several days later, Mark decided he wanted to take his own life and, whilst having suicidal thoughts, found the Project Nova leaflet in his pocket. He called the number and received a call back from a member of the team who offered him support and was able to work with Mark to get the help he needed, including an introduction to mindfulness and techniques to help control his thoughts.

He says, “I have fought for 30 years to stay alive and I’m not fighting anymore. My therapy has got progressively better every single day. PTSD doesn’t control me. I control it. I am so glad I received that call. I think my biggest achievement is getting through this.”

Mark has the following advice for anyone who may find themselves in a similar position, “Pick up the phone because the help is there. You can do it and you can get there, and you can control your mind. Just don’t quit. You can come out the other side and achieve so much. Your life’s not over.”

For more information visit www.oneistoomany.org.uk

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