Former Forces Support, a social enterprise based in Manchester, was established by ex-forces personnel for ex-forces personnel and their families who may be unemployed or unable to get employment in the North West.

Former Forces Support is about harnessing every opportunity to promote healthier lifestyles and wellbeing, to overcome barriers, and to change attitudes and behaviours for a healthier and happier life. The group engages with members of the ex-force’s community, aiming to support them in adapting to, and existing within, society. The group also works to help unemployed ex-service members to build the skills necessary to have the confidence and coping strategies to enter the workforce.

The group run many courses which offer a holistic approach to ex-service personnel in the Manchester area, some of whom are suffering from substance misuse issues and/or mental health issues. The aim is to give individuals the confidence and motivation to become a functioning member of their local community.

One of these such courses was a series of lifestyle management workshops for the former forces community in Greater Manchester. Their emotional wellbeing workshop covered topics such as building positive relationships and resolving conflict, and their light physical exercise sessions included dietary, nutrition and exercise advice.

As a result of the workshops, the group experienced an increased awareness and understanding of mental, emotional and physical health with more members feeling able to openly talk and discuss questions they have, challenging stereotypes and discrimination. More attendees were able to recognise positive mental health and appropriate coping strategies, as well as recognising poor mental health and possible personal triggers. The group also showed its members where to get any further support from within their social or medical environment, home and the wider community.

At various points during the workshops, the group asked the attendees to write their feedback in the form of informal Post-it notes. One of the attendees said: “I feel relieved, positive, proud and grateful.” Another added: “I am humbled, I felt like I did not deserve it. This workshop makes me want to give something back.”