Thank you to the 99/100 Group and SSAFA Hastings & Rother Division for this guest blog.

Whilst the 19th May will forever be linked with the Royal Wedding, for a group of veterans from Hastings & Rother, it will be a day they went to the theatre.  Some had not been exposed to crowds or confined dark places for years and would probably never have had the courage to go to or indeed enjoy a play or show.  They did just that on 19th May with a trip to Brighton!

So, what was the occasion? A play called A Brave Face by Vamos Theatre, about a soldier’s lifeline from enlisting to Afghanistan, combat, PTSD and attempted suicide, was put on as part of the Brighton Festival. It was without words, pure mime, with very effective subtle lighting and sound effects. 

The company also issued a ‘trigger sheet’ pre-show, explaining each act and what should be expected by the audience.   This was immensely helpful in preparing veterans before the event.   It will also serve as a template for them to talk about their experience in the future.   The bonus was Vamos offered SSAFA half-price tickets.

The group of 12 were part of the 99/100 Wellbeing and Coping Group, affiliated to SSAFA Hastings & Rother Division, but totally independently funded by the Silver Lady Fund.   All enjoyed a coach trip to Brighton (another challenge for some) on a glorious day, a hot dog, or two and coffee in a festive atmosphere amongst the public, themselves enjoying an evening in the open air, on the green at the Warren.

It may have been a culture shock for some members, but being amongst friends, feeling safe and having three SSAFA support volunteers, a psychiatric nurse and a peer mentor, made it an occasion that went off without incident.  An evening out that helped some overcome fears and anxieties and put another achievement on their pathway to recovery.

A Brave Face is recommended to all members of the military community.  It is TILS (Transition, Intervention & Liaison Scheme NHS) approved, currently touring the country and is Colchester based.   It is very well thought through, presented and an education for anyone who is likely to be exposed to veterans.  

‘The 99/100 Group’  is  named after two bus routes which converge on Hastings town centre, from the West (Eastbourne) and East (Rye).  It is dedicated to providing non-clinical support (wellbeing and coping) for veterans with PTSD and mental health issues. This is coupled, where appropriate, with the traditional services offered by SSAFA, giving veterans direct and continuing support during their recovery process.  It currently meets fortnightly.