As the sun rises on Armed Forces Day 2023, an Aneurin Bevan University Health Board team based near Abergavenny continues with an initiative for veterans that helps by immersing them in virtual reality mindfulness.

Vanessa Bailey, Clinical lead for the team said: “Veterans have served our country. And so, to offer them something that’s perhaps a little different, a little unique, is incredibly beneficial and positive.”

These patients are provided with virtual reality headsets installed with mindfulness content to help them better manage their mental health symptoms whilst waiting between treatments. From peaceful forests to calming hillsides.

Working with Veteran Therapists and Peer Mentors, the team is part of the Veterans NHS Wales (VNHSW) service which is a specialist priority service for military veterans with military service-attributable mental health problems.

The team’s aim is to improve the mental health and wellbeing of veterans and the virtual reality headsets are one of several ways they are tackling the goal of providing sustainable, accessible and effective services.

Damon Rees, Peer Mentor in the team, has also been nominated in the Health & Well-being category of the Welsh Veterans Awards 2023. He said:“I was a Platoon Sergeant with the Royal Pioneers / Royal Logistics Corps for 28 years and retired from military service in February 2016. I am passionate about the work that I do to support mental health recovery and to improve the health and well-being of our military veterans and feel honoured to be a finalist in the Welsh Veterans Health & Well-being Awards.

The best part of my role is seeing our military veterans improve, moving forwards in their recovery journey and rebuilding their lives. This is why I do what I do.”

According to the 2021 Census, there were 115,341 veterans in Wales with 21,527 living in Gwent.

One veteran using the service “found it relaxing before bed and helped with sleep.” Another said “when using it my mind wasn’t on my problems.”

The service continues to support veterans in Gwent, receiving 88 referrals in 2022-23. Veterans and reservists can self-refer, and referrals are also welcomed from various health services and third-sector organisations. With out-patient clinics provided across Gwent.