The festive period will be desperately tough for thousands of people in the Armed Forces community who are struggling with isolation and loneliness.
Feeling lost and adrift, some veterans shut themselves off from their family, friends and local community.
All this can feel worse at Christmas, as others are having fun with those they love. The sense of missing out sharpens the pain. But you can help.
"Thanks to people’s kind donations, I got support from Help for Heroes that helped me get my life back on track."
Your support this Christmas can help more veterans, like Greg, overcome isolation and loneliness. Here's Greg's story...
“The tools Help for Heroes have taught me allow me to spend time with my family in the here and now. What more can I ask for?”
Greg served in the First Gulf War, Bosnia and Northern Ireland. He then spent 25 years in frontline policing before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“That feeling of vulnerability when I was in the police and feeling like a target in the Gulf War aged 19 started to mesh together in my mind.
“When I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2018, the anxiety and heightened awareness came back and hit me like a freight train.
“Memories from traumatic events can come back decades after service. I sat on the sofa for days on end. Drained, fatigued, and scared witless because of my memories.”
‘I was around friends and family, but I was totally adrift’
“Isolation as a veteran is bizarre. You can be among all these people who you love, and who love you, and feel totally adrift. But plonk me in a room of veterans and that feeling of isolation evaporates. You’re with people who are going through the same. Help for Heroes have allowed me to make friends for life.”
‘Tools to get my life back on track’
“In 2020 Help for Heroes offered me a list of courses I could do online. I can remember the moment my recovery started. I was sat in my kitchen on my laptop. It was a lightbulb moment when I realised what I needed to do. The courses gave me the tools to get my life back on track.”
‘Being there for my family again’
“Before working with the Help for Heroes Recovery College I wasn't in the here and now with my family. I would bumble my way through. Now if we're on a beach together, I'm on the beach with them. I'm not having flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. If those thoughts try to trickle their way into my mind, I'm able to bring myself back to the here and now, and enjoy my family time. That’s thanks to tools and grounding techniques Help for Heroes taught me.”
‘Getting my Christmas spirit back’
“Christmas can be tough. Everybody is feeling happy and joyous. It knocked the wind out of my sails in 2018 and Christmas that year was extremely difficult. I felt bland and empty inside. I was going through the motions, and as a dad that felt dreadful.
“I cannot wait for Christmas this year. It's going to be fun. It's going to be full of life and energy.
‘My message to other veterans’
“My message to any veteran who is suffering from isolation is to ask for help. It's a really tough thing to do. But that hand is there and all you have to do is grasp it. As soon as you do, you're welcomed in. You're not judged. Come forward. If I can do it, I know other people out there can too.”