Military veterans and their families in the north of Scotland can now get frequent face-to-face support from Help for Heroes through activities and meet-ups designed to tackle loneliness and isolation.
It is the first time that the military charity has had a dedicated staff member in the Highlands, where more than 4,000 people receive an Armed Forces pension.
Jonny Bayley, whose Army career was cut short when he was medically discharged, has a calendar full of activities planned for this year, ranging from coffee mornings to outdoor pursuits and visits to local attractions.
“It’s all about fellowship, bringing like-minded people together so they don’t feel alone,” said Jonny, 28, who is based in Elgin.
“We are determined to help the Armed Forces community but, to meet their needs, I want them to tell me what other activities they’d like to see.
“Veterans who are lonely and isolated are the least likely group of people to come forward and ask for help, so it’s really important that I’m there getting out into the community and making people aware of the help that is available.”
“I am a veteran, and I was supported by Help for Heroes, so I understand how hard it is to make that first move but it changed my life.
“To anyone struggling I would say we’re here to help you and your family live well after service.
“If you’re in pain, or if you feel anxious, stressed or lonely, we can help.
“We can also help if you’re having money troubles or need support with housing or applying for benefits.”
A recent survey by Help for Heroes revealed that 82% of veterans say they are experiencing feelings of loneliness and 79% struggle to make meaningful connections in their community.
“Due to the experiences you have in the military, your day is scheduled for you, you know what you are doing weekly and monthly so when you leave the military, all that is taken away.
“You have to plan your own life, your own time, your own schedule, and those contacts you had that you worked with, you lived with, you socialised with, those contacts are lost.
“If we can bring people together because they’ve got a shared interest in something, they are so much more likely to form meaningful relationships and connections with people.”
Veterans or loved ones in need of support can visit https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-help/