In a recent poll, SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity revealed that nearly a quarter of service personnel are experiencing loneliness in the lead up to Christmas this year.
Surprisingly, just 19 per cent of Brits surveyed realise that service personnel can feel this way – with the elderly more commonly recognised as feeling ‘alone’.
Christmas exacerbates feelings of loneliness, as pressure to enjoy picture-perfect moments builds. For those surveyed in the military, well over two thirds said they felt lonelier than usual at Christmas. Of those polled, over two thirds of those serving said that they spend Christmas without loved ones most years. Furthermore, nearly a half of those serving in the military believe that Forces’ spouses left behind can feel this even more acutely than their partners.
To shine a spotlight on this issue and encourage the public to show the Forces community that they are not alone, SSAFA has called on the public to show their support. A host of celebrity support has been shown for the campaign, with names such as Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes, Kym Marsh, Antony Cotton, Major Levison Wood and JJ Chalmers coming forward to share their own experiences of loneliness in the Armed Forces community at Christmas. Joining with SSAFA, they are encouraging everyone to remember those who are feeling alone this Christmas and make a small gesture to change this trend.
Bill Grant, Forcesline Manager at SSAFA says
“There’s a perception that the elderly are the most lonely group in society, but in reality isolation affects many of us. We can all feel alone, and Christmas can make this feel worse. Reaching out could be a daunting but life-changing first step.
“For the Forces community, I hear first-hand that this can be a difficult time. Whether deployed and away from home, or just struggling to adjust to civilian life, loneliness and isolation can hit those serving and their families, of all backgrounds.
“Knowing that there is someone to listen makes a difference. SSAFA supported 82,000 people last year and we are seeing a steady increase in this ‘need’. We want to encourage people to reach out to those who may be experiencing feelings of isolation at Christmas – a simple gesture can be all that it takes. Your support of SSAFA will help us to be there for even more members of the Forces family when in need.”
Colonel Dame Kelly Holmes, DBE comments
“Whilst I was in the British Army, I was also training for the Olympics and heavily involved in athletics. There were moments where I would find myself all alone in my barracks, struggling with my emotions on my own and trying to find an escape.
“I realise now that you can get help if you ask for it. So when half of you is dying, and half of you is trying to live – because actually you know you can be good at something still, you have to fight and battle through that. And there is help there, whether it’s reaching out to your local SSAFA branch or just talking to a family member or friend. There is always someone who will listen to you, you just have to have it within you to ask for it.”
Boeing is newest corporate partner for SSAFA
Boeing UK recently named SSAFA as their Charity of the Year 2019/2020, as part of their ongoing commitment to the military community. This support will mean that the charity will receive a total of £62,000 from Boeing. The funds will be allocated between SSAFA’s on-the-ground team of caseworkers and their mentoring programme – which helps motivate, support, and empower Forces leavers as they join Civvy Street.
Not only is Boeing UK supporting SSAFA’s vital work, they have created a thriving environment for Forces leavers to join.
About BRAVO – Boeing’s UK’s reservists and veterans organisation
• BRAVO is an employee network connecting veterans, reserves and colleagues across Boeing UK that currently has 185 members dedicated to those who serve or who have served.
• BRAVO’s goal is to build a community of knowledge within Boeing UK relating to military matters, provide mentoring and guidance for new hires from a service background, help managers understand and work with their ex-forces employees as well as facilitate personal development, career acceleration and growth in skills and knowledge.
• The BRAVO network organises community outreach events, charity fundraising and volunteering initiatives, employee events for Armed Forces Week and school engagement activities as well as attending Forces events such as Beating the Retreat at Horseguards Parade and Remembrance Sunday.
• BRAVO is open to all Boeing employees in the UK, a member does not need to be ex-military or a reservist and it is entirely voluntary.
Following a military career with a new role at Boeing Defence UK
Audrey Stevenson, RAF Odiham Operations Manager, Boeing Defence UK, says:
“I previously served in the military for 27 years as a fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft engineer. I completed operational tours in Former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan and completed arctic, jungle and desert training with the Royal Marines.
My career at Boeing began in February 2017. I spent just over two years working at Boeing Commercial Aviation Services Europe Ltd, before to moving to Boeing’s defence business as an Operations Manager.
Upon leaving the military, I initially worked for a commercial airline, and found transitioning to civilian life quite a challenge due to the lack of daily structure and camaraderie. During this time, I felt quite isolated and struggled with feeling a loss of identity. Very soon after joining Boeing, I joined Boeing’s veteran employee network (BRAVO). Being part of the military community within Boeing and interacting with other employees with whom I have shared experiences, gave me back my sense of purpose and identity.”