An innovative method of mental health support for veterans has been launched by the Armed Forces service at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT).

The Buddy2Buddy café style virtual drop ins aim to connect, support and empower veterans and their families, creating a safe space where people can relax and share experiences to support their emotional wellbeing. The project recognises the additional risk of social isolation through the pandemic and the disproportionate impact this has on the mental wellbeing of Armed Forces veterans, many of whom struggle to cope with the emotional impact of their experiences.

The project follows a successful £16,000 funding bid from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, supported by LPT’s charity Raising Health, for a year-long pilot.

Armed Forces Lead, Brendan Daly said: “We have an active network of armed forces champions across the Trust, many of whom have served in the armed forces or have loved ones continuing to serve, who are giving their time to raise awareness and develop ways that we can support local people. The Buddy2Buddy sessions are an example of this.

The sessions have been based on a US model of volunteer support, developed alongside service users. Buddy2Buddy reflects the ‘buddy/buddy checks’ the British Military are taught when fitting equipment.”

At the official launch event on Wednesday 16 June 2021, one service user shared his experience of attending the Buddy2Buddy café. He said:

“Joining the Buddy2Buddy cafes was the best thing I did. They listened and understood my experiences of suffering from poor mental health, and it reminded me of the comradeship I felt when serving in the Royal Air Force. If you know anyone who may benefit from this initiative, please spread the word and ask them to get in touch.”

Trust chair, Cathy Ellis said: “I’m pleased to see the launch of this initiative which builds on our commitment and work so far with veterans. We are committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Armed Forces veterans, as well as their families, and helping to reduce the stigma around mental illness associated with military experience. We are signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant and have achieved the Gold Standard in 2019. Across all of our services, we are working hard to ensure veterans, reservists, military families and staff are supported.”

The Raising Health charity appeal aims to assist with the therapeutic recovery of former soldiers, sailors and airmen in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Find out more about the appeal: