Stress Awareness Month: Community is vital

Grace Andrews General, Getting you back to work

Stress can affect us all at different times in our lives. The last two years have been more challenging than most, with many veterans experiencing loneliness and social isolation. This year’s Stress Awareness Month, which runs through April, is focused on the importance of community for positive mental health – something that has always been key to our work as a charity.

Building relationships

Community has always been at the heart of our employment support. In the early days of The Poppy Factory, veterans and their families moved in to purpose-built homes next to our factory in Richmond-upon-Thames. They lived and worked together and enjoyed a rich social life, laying the foundations of a strong community that has lasted 100 years.

More recently, the expansion of our employment support has built connections in communities across England and Wales. Being based regionally makes it easier for our Employment Consultants to meet veterans in places they know and feel comfortable in. Local knowledge goes a long way, and regular face-to-face contact helps build trust and understanding.

A meeting with a veteran might mean a chat at the local coffee shop or a walk in the park. For some, this connection might be the only regular contact they have.

Making connections

Because they understand the communities they work within, our Employment Consultants are well placed to help veterans make meaningful new connections. They work alongside partner veteran services, getting to know what each organisation does and how they might help. Overall wellbeing is just as vital as the end goal of a fulfilling job. Some veterans need help in many areas, from mental health to housing and financial support. Being part of a community means our team members can refer veterans for wider support while helping them move towards employment.

100 years of community

The importance of community in the story of The Poppy Factory is told through our visitor centre in Richmond, where we still have a thriving production team. Veterans continue to make Remembrance wreaths and some still live in the flats on our estate – a very short commute!

Since the 1920s, members of this community have benefited from a healthy mix of work and leisure. In its heyday, hundreds of veterans and their families enjoyed social clubs, a bowls club, community events and competitions, creating a real buzz.

Opening up

Today, our visitor centre is helping to bring together The Poppy Factory and the wider community closer together. Groups of 25-50 are encouraged to book a visit and discover our 100 year story, from our origins to the modern day. It is an opportunity for different generations to continue being a part of our community. And in doing so, visitors will help the veterans we support make positive new connections in their own communities across England and Wales.