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Upcoming Events

REME Reunion 2024

The Delta Hotel by Marriot, Warwick

19th - 21st April 2024

Corps WOs' and Sgts Mess Spring Guest Dinner Night

Harris MM WOs' and Sgts' Mess

25 April 2024

Corps Dinner Night

HQ Officers' Mess

16 May 2024

REME Junior Officers' Dinner Night

HQ Officers' Mess

13 June 2024

Beating Retreat June 2024

Princess Marina Officers' Mess

20 June 2024

*If you are interested in participating in the veterans’ connections programme, read the detailed description below, and contact Stu Cowen via engagement@remecharity.org

The Problem

Approximately 10% of personnel transition to civilian life in the UK Armed Forces each year [1]. Negotiating this transition is challenging and many veterans experience psychological distress and mental strive [2, 3]. Research shows the detrimental effect of losing valued group memberships on mental well-being, rates of depression and relapse [6, 7]. This is aligned with what we know about the veteran experience and their loss of a core identity and meaningful group connections. Targeting these identity and social changes, which are currently not the focus of support, may provide veterans with the additional help needed to navigate the transition in ways that protect their mental wellbeing [8].

The Solution

Members of Exeter University and The University of Queensland team have developed and tested a programme that directly targets identity and social change in key life transitions, Veterans’ Connections (VC), and have adapted it for the general workforce and elite sport retirement. The VC program has proven efficacy in reducing depression, social anxiety and loneliness through supporting identity development and group belonging [8-10]. We propose to develop and test an adaptation for retired REME personnel. This program will:

  1. Raise awareness of the identity changes faced by veterans.
  2. Help veterans map out their existing networks of support (social groups and identities) to identify key areas for growth to protect health in the transition (using the Social Identity Mapping tool, as in the example to the right).
  3. Develop veteran skills to understand and manage identity loss, identity maintenance, and identity gain.
  4. Work with veterans to extend and enhance their identities in ways that support their future goals and values, whilst enhancing health and well-being.

 

Programme

The online programme can be completed by small groups of veterans. The programme will include online modules, facilitated via an online video conferencing platform, and delivered in groups of 6 to 8. The sessions will be co-facilitated by a trained psychology researcher and a REME veteran to ensure that recipients are served by experts in programme delivery and the military transition.

An outline of the module content is summarised in the table below. As participants work through these modules, they will gain the knowledge and skills needed to understand and manage their existing group networks and how these can be strengthened and extended through developing new meaningful group networks that are aligned with their future goals and values and support their health and well-being. This structure follows the evidence-based VC programme, but the specific content will be modified through co-design with the group of retired REME personnel to ensure its fitness for purpose.   

 

Module Content
1. Appreciating Groups This module helps people to (i) make the link between social groups (whether family, work-related, friendship, sporting, or more) and identity, (ii) understand their role in mental health and well-being, and (iii) learn how to harness group connections to better support successful life transitions.

2. Mapping Groups

 

In this module, participants create a visual representation of their current groups using the online Social Identity Mapping tool [9]. This process supports participants to understand issues of identity, belonging, and support associated with their current groups.
3. Strengthening Groups Drawing on the social identity maps, this module helps participants identify those group connections that are especially beneficial for well-being in the transition with a focus on the development of evidence-based skills and strategies to achieve this aim. 
4. Expanding Groups Recognising there is likely to be a loss of important groups on retirement from the Force, this module works with participants to develop new group connections that are aligned with their current goals, values and interests. A social plan is then created to support the development of new meaningful group ties. This plan is trialled before the final module that takes place a month later
5. Sustaining Groups This module connects learnings from the previous four modules and focuses on trouble-shooting difficulties, barriers or other issues that might arise for participants when implementing their social plan.

Benefits

We anticipate that Veterans’ Connections will improve the transition process for recently retired personnel, but also impact well-being based on our past research. As a prevention-based program, VC can be offered to all transitioning personnel and veterans to improve the mental wellbeing of veterans and their experience and management of identity and social changes. But there are also potential benefits for the family of veterans and to veteran support services in addressing unmet identity-based changes and needs.

 

references

  1. Ministry of Defence, UK Armed Forces Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics April 2022. 2022.
  2. Romaniuk, M., et al., Assessing psychological adjustment and cultural reintegration after military service: development and psychometric evaluation of the post-separation Military-Civilian Adjustment and Reintegration Measure (M-CARM). BMC Psychiatry, 2020. 20(1): p. 1-17.
  3. Stevelink, S.A., et al., Mental health outcomes at the end of the British involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts: a cohort study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2018. 213(6): p. 690-697.
  4. Leslie, C., et al., Social isolation and loneliness of UK veterans: a Delphi study. Occupational Medicine, 2020. 70(6): p. 407-414.
  5. Guthrie-Gower, S. and G. Wilson-Menzfeld, Ex-military personnel’s experiences of loneliness and social isolation from discharge, through transition, to the present day. PloS one, 2022. 17(6): p. e0269678.
  6. Cruwys, T., et al., Depression and social identity: An integrative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2014. 18(3): p. 215-238.
  7. Sani, F., et al., Greater number of group identifications is associated with healthier behaviour: Evidence from a Scottish community sample. British Journal of Health Psychology, 2015. 20(3): p. 466-481.
  8. Haslam, C., Lam, B.C.P., Yang, J., Steffens, N.K., Haslam, S.A., Cruwys, T., Boen, F., Mertens, N., De Brandt, K., Wang, X., & Fransen, K., When the final whistle blows: Social identity pathways support mental health and life satisfaction after retirement from elite sport. . 2021: Manuscript under review.
  9. Bentley, S.V., et al., Social identity mapping online. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2020. 118(2): p. 213.