Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for former servicemen and women. In addition to a 24-hour Helpline and community mental health services, Combat Stress runs a range of treatment programmes at three treatment centres for individuals with trauma-related mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. In 2017, the Endeavour Fund supported Combat Stress to develop a physical fitness programme for former servicemen and women participating in residential treatment at Tyrwhitt House treatment centre in Surrey.
Combat Stress recognises the importance of exercise in recovery and relapse prevention, both during and following treatment. In the same way that exercise is important during their time in the military, it can also help veterans with trauma-related mental health conditions to deal with the aftermath of traumatic events and enhance resilience. In addition to physical health benefits, exercise has a range of mental health benefits by promoting relaxation and sleep, and by releasing chemicals in the brain which improves mood. It also helps to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviours which can facilitate transition back into civilian and local community life, combating loneliness and isolation.
In partnership with the Endeavour Fund, Combat Stress has been able to incorporate more fitness into residential treatment programmes at Tyrwhitt House, which run for up to six weeks, complementing other clinical treatments and therapies. The fitness programme includes weekly fitness sessions with British Military Fitness (BMF) and yoga classes. These are inclusive to all former servicemen and women at Tyrwhitt House, with instructors adapting classes to existing physical injuries and fitness levels.
The fitness sessions have been welcomed by veterans and one participant is now embarking on a career change to train as a fitness instructor with BMF. The participants to date have reported that they are seeking out fitness and yoga classes in their local communities on their return home, continuing to incorporate fitness into their everyday lives and using it to help them continue in their recovery.
“The BMF sessions bring the blokes together and it adds something else to the treatment programme to look forward to in the evening, which I have loved. I’ve slept well. It has pushed me to push myself and I have even thought about joining BMF in a career. The instructors understand that some of us have injuries and are at different levels of fitness, to which they give different exercises to the lads to let them carry on with the session.”
Photo credit: Lewis Darling
Combat Stress Helpline
Call: 0800 138 1619
Text: 07537 404 719
Email: [email protected]