A GROUP helping current and former servicemen and women adapt to life in “civvy street” has already received hundreds of requests for advice.
SALUTE, set up at Christmas by former soldiers Keith Shepherd (51) and Daniel Hutchinson (37) opened officially in January, but in March alone its website had received more than 400 hits.
Based at the Brunshaw Estate Management Board office in Brunshaw Avenue, the charity offers a sympathetic ear and a guiding hand to local veterans and people who are finding it difficult to cope with life.
And that can mean anything from the very serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or unemployment.
Former Royal Engineer Keith Shepherd said: “Burnley is a huge recruiting area for the armed services, particularly the Army, and we find that a lot find re-adjusting to civilian life very difficult. Being in the services is a very high-pressure but regulated environment where you rely on the support of your comrades.
“When soldiers leave the Army and return home they can sometimes feel very alone, isolated and scared. We can put them in touch with trained counsellors. Not all wounds are visible.”
Co-founder Daniel Hutchinson served with the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Northern Ireland and suffered the loss of a close friend and comrade through suicide.
“It is not just combat veterans who suffer from PTSD and other problems. The services system leaves you without a lot of basic life-skills to cope in civilian life.
“However, it does give you lots of transferrable skills that society is crying out for. A lot of soldiers are trained technicians, engineers, drivers and the like but need assistance to integrate when they are on their own.”
One ex-soldier says his life has been turned round since getting in touch with SALUTE – to the extent that he now works as a volunteer for the group.
Former airborne artillery serviceman John Wilson (50) served in the Armed Forces for 24 years and seven years with the police.
He was suffering from depression as a result of PSTD which he developed after being assaulted while in the police.
“A mental health nurse recommended I get in touch with SALUTE after she read about it in the Burnley Express. I haven’t looked back. The two counsellors, who are ex-military, fully understand what I am talking about. I felt immediately at ease.
“Some personnel become institutionalised and can’t integrate back into civilian life. SALUTE assists with these issues. The outcome has been noticed by my family and friends. I have now got my self-worth and respect back and can only see further positive improvements.”
SALUTE can offer rooms for meetings, coffee mornings and for wives and girlfriends who wish to meet up to talk about issues.
l The group can be contacted on 425697 or through the website www.saluteyou.vpweb.co.uk.