The Derbyshire Veterans Group is a veteran led, peer group based in Chesterfield. It supports those who are struggling to adjust to life outside of the armed forces.
Glyn Cooke, 61, Chairman of the group, served in the Coldstream Guards for 18 years, where he enjoyed running marathons and captaining the football team.
Glyn became an alcoholic when he left the army.
“I got lost,” said Glyn.
“When I came out, if I went for a job and they said ‘what can you do?’ –I’d probably say ‘march, hide, drive and kill’ -not many jobs like that out there.”
An isolated community
Barrie Deseja-Martin, 40, Secretary, said: “When a soldier leaves, he doesn’t necessarily know where to go for housing, for jobs because while he was serving, there was always people there to point him in the right direction. Unfortunately, when he gets out, he’s left to his own devices.”
“It’s very common for ex-forces to isolate themselves and withdraw and that can lead to substance misuse with alcohol, especially if they have a mental health issue.”
Barrie was medically discharged from the army at the end of 2014. He would still happily serve if he could, but due to having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he is unable to.
The disorder “will be an issue for me, for however long and I’d imagine with other mental health issues it’s just ongoing.”
The Derbyshire Veterans Group offers “an environment where a veteran can come, with no stigma attached,” said Barrie.
Dr Katherine Albertson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University was part of a team that conducted a veteran evaluation. It found, some ex-personnel benefitted from veteran specific services, because they did not identify with a civilian identity.
“A vast majority of veterans that we have in this country are quite old, so on top the normal ageing processes, social isolation, is one of the biggest dangers to them,” said Dr Albertson.
“We need to be responding to it now so we can get partnerships with the local community groups who are here already. That’s what the Armed Forces Covenant provision initiatives are all about.”
The Armed Forces Covenant -a pledge made by local communities was introduced in 2011 to provide fair support to ex-service personnel and their families.
The implementation of the covenant varies from council to council, so disparate services have developed nationwide.
A Shared Intelligence survey of veterans found almost a quarter felt that their council did not understand their needs. Over 38% felt they had been disadvantaged, at least once, as a result of their service.
Approximately 38,000 veterans live in Derbyshire and the veterans group believe that none, need live in isolation.
“It’s part our job to get the awareness out there and it’s part the veterans job to accept it,” said John Schmidt, 43, member of the Derbyshire Veterans Group.
“Every veteran feels proud and some don’t see that they have got a worth in the community apart from just being a soldier.”