From education to employment

How students are promoting mental wellbeing for veterans

Students at the University of Sunderland(@sunderlanduni) have led a veterans’ mental wellbeing day in collaboration with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity as part of their placement.

Demi Cowling and Angela Leyland, who study Occupation Therapy, organised and led a day full of sessions and activities including a mind gym that hosted in the University’s Veterans’ Garden.

This day was aimed at promoting mental wellbeing for those who have served in the Armed Forces.

Angela said:

“I felt really privileged to be involved in the Volunteers Wellbeing Day and felt fortunate to be part of an amazing team that included those who work and volunteer for SSAFA, staff members at the University of Sunderland and other Occupational Therapy students who collaborated with us.

“I have a great deal of respect for those who support veterans in charities and organisations such as SSAFA, as they give so selflessly and with such dedication to help veterans and their families.

“They have such a positive impact on veterans’ lives and deserve to have their wellbeing supported as they work in situations which can be difficult and complex.

“The wellbeing day has enabled me to show my appreciation for all the work that those who volunteer for SSAFA do.”

Demi said:

“Arranging this wellbeing day has been a great learning experience, enabling us to develop a wider understanding of SSAFA and the roles the charity play helping veterans and those in the forces worldwide.

“It has been exhilarating and nerve wracking to be a part of something new and unique, leading the way for future students to have the opportunity to become a part of this amazing charitable organisation.”

Angela added: “It was amazing to see everyone participating in the activities, interacting with each other, and just having fun.”

These students have worked closely with SSAFA as part of the students six-week placement that aims to ground their studies in the workplace as well as help support the work of the charity.

Michelle Scott, Volunteer Development Manager at SSAFA, said:

“We were thrilled to provide the first-ever placement opportunity to students from the University of Sunderland.

“Our commitment lies in achieving our strategic goals, with a key focus on fostering collaboration as our fifth aim.

“This partnership has not only been mutually beneficial but has also provided valuable insights on how we can further enhance and expand this opportunity. We look forward to seeing where this leads next.”

Staff at the University have also provided supervision and support alongside the Volunteer Development Manager from SSAFA.

Brett Lambert, senior lecturer in Occupational Therapy, said:

“The University of Sunderland, as an Armed Forces Covenant Gold employer, supports the military community and so partnering with SSAFA has been a continuation of this support.

“The role emerging placement with SSAFA has enabled Demi and Angela to train to become SSAFA caseworkers as well as exploring how occupational therapists could work in this area.

“They have learned key skills around case work and supporting veterans and their families in times of need.

“We have been delighted to partner with SSAFA in the organisation and delivery of this placement opportunity and we are hopeful to develop this partnership further.”

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