Army vet who’s launched new support foundation says Covid-19 is NHS’s Afghanistan
3 years ago
It’s already been likened to a war zone for the NHS staff battling against the coronavirus and caring for increasing numbers of people suffering with Covid-19.
And the pandemic will take its toll in the same way, according to Afghan veteran Andy Reid, who lost both legs and an arm when he stood on a booby trap bomb in Helmand Province.
“This, for me, is their Afghanistan,” he says. “And it will affect them now, or six months after it has all finished, or a year down the line.
“They have been working to deal with a crisis, they have been holding the hands of someone as they pass away because their family couldn’t do that as they normally would. It will take its toll on their mental health… they will wonder what it’s all about.
“It will have a massive effect on the lives and mental health of nurses and other medics moving forward.”
Andy is speaking after the decision was made to launch his new Standing Tall Foundation in April last year, almost five months earlier than planned, to offer help and support.
“Leon House, a private mental health clinic for which I’m an ambassador, suggested providing mental health treatment for the NHS and care workers on the front line,” says Andy, “and we decided to launch the foundation early so we could offer that.
“I realised that there would be people out there who needed mental health support and if we could provide that free of charge, then we would.
“I know what it’s like to struggle with mental health. Even talking about my journey helps me to deal with it and I haven’t been able to do that in this current situation, so I’ve spoken to a therapist. I’d encourage anyone who’s struggling to speak to somebody about it.”
The Standing Tall Foundation has also provided laptops to school students who needed them so they could carry on learning away from school.
But while Andy was quick to respond to provide urgent and immediate support, he is equally preparing to ensure long term help through the community interest company to carers, care leavers, veterans and vulnerable people with issues including mental health.
It is 11 years since Andy, now 44 and living in Rainford, was injured in the blast while serving for the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.
He has fought back from feeling ‘useless and unwanted’, and endured countless operations and been fitted with prosthetic limbs to come out feeling positive.
He has raised more than £200,000 for armed forces charities with increasingly daredevil exploits from skydiving or kayaking to London, or doing a 400-mile bike ride or abseiling down The Big One in Blackpool.
By his own admission, Andy Reid’s wars may be over, but his campaigning continues, and he remains determined not just to make the most of his life, but that of others.
While he has a popular café and takeaway coffee bar in Rainford and works as a motivational speaker, Standing Tall will continue his charitable aims.
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Andy, who was awarded the MBE in 2019 for voluntary service to veterans and to people with disabilities in St Helens, says: “When I got the MBE I realised I could do something, and use it to have an even greater impact on the community I live in.
“St Helens has the biggest male suicide rate in the UK, a lot of deprived areas and I had this voice now, people would listen to what I had to say. I thought it was time I did something for my home town and the north west in general, and get involved on a more direct level.
“I chose to offer help for carers because I was one myself – my mum was disabled and an amputee after a car crash, and I would go to the shops, make tea and help look after my sister, so I know what it’s like. I’m close to that.
“Care leavers need support because they are passed from pillar to post and different care and foster homes, so they have no real friends or family to advise them about money management when they are thrust into the big wide world, looking after a home, or just being there for them. We’ll support them, and veterans and other vulnerable people, with a range of social issues from debt management to homelessness, employment, relationships and mental health.”
Andy has currently set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to offer a Wellbeing In The Woods programme to take those he wants to support into a natural environment, to learn skills like shelter building, cooking and lighting campfires.
And he says: “It will support well-being, they can talk about their experiences and we will have trained counsellors there to pick up on any issues. The aim is to help inspire them, to motivate them and provide resilience to face the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic and life in general.”
Andy, who is married to Claire with whom he now has two children, William, eight, and Scarlet, almost three, says the foundation will be his legacy.
Although, with thriving businesses and roles as ambassador for a number of north west companies, and a family to care for, you do wonder why Andy doesn’t just sit back now and relax a little. So why does he do it?
“It’s the right thing to do,” smiles Andy. “I am a genuine guy, I have got values and standards the Army instilled into me. I can help – and I will.”