MHAW: Meet Our Participants

Last week, on the lead up to Mental Health Awareness Week, Jordan visited our NAAFI Break session to catch up with a few participants to see how the sessions have prevented them from feeling lonely.  

Meet Helen.  Helen volunteered with the Community Trust throughout the pandemic and now also attends a variety of activities delivered in the community.

When have you felt lonely?

During the lockdown, I live on my own, I lost my husband a number of years back and I lost my dog in the middle of it as well, and that was hard.

How do you feel now?

I don’t feel lonely now that everything has opened up.  Events like the NAAFI Break are the great chance to have a laugh and we’re all veterans so we can understand each other.

How has this helped you?

It gives you something to look forward to but strangely enough when we get together like this nobody is moaning about oh they’re lonely which is great because it just lifts your spirit. Even if you don’t know everybody’s name, the friendly faces are recognised each week.

Next Meet Alan.  Alan attends our NAAFI Break Coffee Mornings and Walk & Talks.

When have you felt lonely?

I felt lonely when I was caring for my wife because it was just me and her all the time 24/7 and I wasn’t getting any bloke time, that’s what I call it, you know it was just me and my wife, yeah so nobody else coming round, just felt lonely, even though I was with my wife I just felt lonely.

I know I’ve got my family, but they’ve got their own lives to live you know, they can’t drop things for me, and I don’t expect them to.

How do you feel now?

Well, I’ve managed to get bloke time now, so I come here to the NAAFI Break, and I go to the Walk and Talks in Stanley park with Tony. I also go out on trips with the guys from the sessions too.

How has this helped you?

It’s kinda given me a reason to doing things, you know, I know that I’m coming here so I get everything else done before I get here, you know it’s just a reason  I guess you could say the sessions have prevented me from being lonely. I come talk to these guys, give them a phone call if I need them.

Meet Darren.

When have you felt lonely?

I think because I don’t work. I think if you work, you go to work and you’ve got friends there. I stopped working a while ago because of anxiety problems, so then there was what to do during the day.

How do you feel now? 

Finding out about this veterans sessions, was a good thing because  I had to fill my time up with positive things to do rather than sitting in the pub and drinking.

I don’t want to say it’s overcome completely. It’s a drip drip thing, coming to the veteran’s meet and then I also do like some singing lessons which I have to force myself to do, but it’s a good thing.

I recently became a catholic, that’s another thing, I used to go to church every Sunday so you’re not drinking on the Saturday, that’s when I had to be careful to avoid drifting into drinking side of things because that did take away the anxiety but then the next day you feel worse. It seems to be getting better and also getting older helps as well, strangely enough.

Before coming to the sessions did you feel anxious?

Yeah I mean I find these types of sessions the worse, I’m used to going to a therapeutic group, in a therapeutic group is alright because I know they’re going to talk about their illnesses or something like that, what I hate is social interaction because you don’t know what’s going to happen and that causes me anxiety.

Perhaps these chaps are having a problem because they’ve been alone because of the lockdown and stuff like that. When I was in the Navy I had that anxiety problem that’s why I left the Navy in 1987.

I always think these type of sessions are going to be bad for me because there is no structure and I think I’m going to be sat in the corner on my own, but it’s turned out good and actually I’ve felt my anxiety hasn’t been so strong. I normally get up in the morning and feel like I’m not gonna want to answer the phone today for definite, were as I get up another day and I think I can probably do a couple. It has been a pleasant surprise for me to start feeling like this. The first session was hard but now I feel more comfortable.

Coach trips are normally a killer for me because you’re stuck on a coach and can’t escape but we went to Liverpool Museum a week ago and it worked out well. It was good and I surprised myself. I didn’t go round with them all but just being in the coach was enough.

It’s like stepping stones, you don’t want to stretch too far, snap and then you fall back.

If you would like more information or to join Helen and others at our NAAFI Break Coffee morning please contact: for more information.