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 - Emma Cook LinkedIn Article Veterans mental health charity - Army donations

It’s time to re-frame the conversation around people who need support

Imagine, for a moment, life without your support network. Family, friends, colleagues, your partner – even your social network. It may be an impossibility to picture yourself in that position, but nobody plans for their life to spiral out of control, yet for myriad reasons people find themselves in that position every single day- Written by Emma Cook.

This is the message Walking With The Wounded (‘WWTW’) imparts to young people when we visit schools to encourage them to think differently about the people we support.

Our message has always been one of hope and inspiration, rather than sorrow and pity. Whether we are empowering those who have served and their families, or appealing for donations, we look to the future. Whilst we recognise the fundraising possibilities that devastating images bring, we would be doing a disservice to those who we work with not to show their future employers, their neighbours and the wider community the assets they possess. The reality is that anyone who has the courage to self-reflect, recognise a weakness and reach out for support should be someone to be admired and empowered, rather than pitied.

Advertising that perpetuates images of needy and vulnerable victims creates a culture of cash donors rather than sustainable supporters. It may also prevent the very people who need support from reaching out, as they don’t want to be pigeon holed in this way. A 2018 YouGov study looking at public perceptions of serving and former military personnel found that most people believed that employers might be unsure about veterans’ ability to cope or be concerned about aggression or willingness to take orders. However, the majority of people also admitted to getting their information about veterans from media coverage, which they considered a ‘biased source’ with mainstream news stories exploiting the term to elicit an emotional response. Where should we place the blame for this unfair depiction?

Director of Operations for WWTW Fergus Williams, says: “We reject the notion that hapless victims need handouts to turn their lives around. We recognise the potential in the men and women who are referred or self-refer to Walking With The Wounded; those we work with may be vulnerable at the point we meet them, but they have a great deal to offer thanks to their world-class military training. The narrative around a person who has lost their sense of purpose must be one of hope and optimism and our view is that all vulnerable people should be afforded this dignity. Walking With The Wounded exists to empower individuals and believe this mind-set should be adopted across the charity sector.”

A conversation that takes place more often than we’d like, is a client saying how unworthy they feel of our support, when there are others with physical injuries who are much more deserving. By shifting the focus onto the future, we place everyone on an equal footing, as we want those who served to reach their own potential.

When planning marketing campaigns we must not lose the human connection; it is vital to consider how we might feel if our friend, partner or child was depicted in a way that might stay with them as they search for a job, a partner or a place to live. Let’s not hide away from uncomfortable truths, but if we are to reach those who need our help the most we must have a positive and inclusive narrative that encourages people to view charities as a place for those keen to take back control, rather than creating victims.