By Kathryn Flack
The familiar sight of red poppies pinned to lapels may now be a distant memory but the work of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal carries on.
Regional offices across the country, 16 in total, support veterans with universal problems that need constant support throughout the year, namely mental health.
Jim France, a retired member of the RAF and area manager for the Royal British Legion Sussex, said: “Even though the 100-year anniversary of the Great War has come to a close don’t just put us on the shelf.
“Without a doubt, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the single biggest challenge we’re facing as an organisation.
“PTSD doesn’t have the same stigma as the other mental health disorders – it’s a badge of honour and makes the problem harder to address.”
Research from King’s College London discovered nearly one in five soldiers deployed to Afghanistan showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The statistics come from surveys carried out with armed forces members between 2014 and 2016.
Mr France said: “As there is currently no census data which confirms the number of vets, we don’t know how many there are or how they are suffering but we can provide a presence.”
The Legion hopes to tackle this with its Count Them In campaign.
It aims to get military service added to the national 2021 census so the Legion can better address where veterans are and what their needs might be. Controversially, there is currently an option to identify as a Jedi, popularised in the movie series Star Wars, but nothing for service members.
Mr France said the Legion is there 365 days a year for veterans and donations from the public provide a wealth of services.
These include sport and art-based recovery, veteran care homes, lobbying, and campaigning for better support for British military personnel settling into civilian life.
It also funds research into Gulf War Syndrome and campaigns for compensation for it.
The Royal British Legion’s director of fundraising, Claire Rowcliffe, said: “We thank the public for their support and generosity, and to our amazing network of volunteers.
“Money donated by the public is used to provide lifelong support for the Armed Forces community – serving men and women, veterans and their families.”
The Poppy Appeal campaign is held every year between October and November but those wishing to donate throughout the year or find out more can click here: www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-