ARMY VETERANS COMBATTING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES THROUGH TAEKWON-DO
Following Prince Harry’s historic interview with Bryony Gordon, in which he bravely opened up about the mental health issues he faced following his mother’s death, a new initiative was launched today in Liverpool, aimed at assisting army veterans overcome their own mental health issues.
This initiative, organised by award-winning charity Launchpad in collaboration with ITF England Taekwon-Do, saw two former world and European Taekwon-Do champions drop-in on a Liverpool sports centre to hold a masterclass in Taekwon-Do for army veterans. This is ahead of the ITF European Taekwon-Do Championships which are taking place in the city later this month between 26th- 30th April 2017 at the Liverpool Echo Arena.
Aside from many obvious physical benefits, Taekwon-Do also provides additional benefits for the participant’s mental health. There is great emphasis on respect – of oneself and for others – trust and communication and it helps to reinforce existing values of honesty, loyalty and collaboration. All of this is of particular help to veterans who are struggling to make the transition from military service to civilian life.
(L-R) Speke House residents and staff John Edwards, Steve Bresnahan, Franc Iacobucci, Gareth O’Neill and Lenny Stone with Japan’s multiple gold-medal winning world champion, Hwang Su-il
The residents of the veterans home Speke House, who are all aged between 16 and 60, took part in the Taekwon-Do class as part of a programme of activities aimed at supporting veterans from all the services in overcoming a series of mental health problems, including depression, alcohol and drug-related problems. Prince Harry is a supporter of Launchpad and visited the organisation’s Newcastle home, Avondale House in early 2015.
Master Alan Clark, England’s International Taekwon-Do Federation Head Coach, was joined by Hwang Su-il, Japan’s multiple gold-medal winning world champion and ITF Technical and Education Committee member, in providing expert tuition to residents of Launchpad’s Speke House in the south of the city at the nearby Austin Rawlinson Sports Centre.
Master Hwang Su-il putting Speke House Facilities Manager Gareth O’Neill through his paces
Both teachers gave a demonstration of their own unique skills, Hwang’s distinct style earnt himself iconic status within the gaming community, having provided the motion-capture for the popular Hwoarang character in the combat game, Tekken.
Explaining the significance of today’s visit ahead of the championships, Master Clark said:
“It is important for us at ITF England to support our veterans and we have had a long-established tie-in with the armed forces. Indeed, we are very grateful that they will be supporting us throughout the European ITF Taekwon-Do championships later this month. Thanks to the British Army we will have serving members of the forces providing medical support on a voluntary basis as well as providing chefs to the team.
“Today’s visit was arranged through our finance director, Mike Moran, who is a supporter of the work undertaken by Launchpad. Both myself and Hwang Su-il have enjoyed success in our careers and I think all the residents enjoyed hearing about the history of Taekwon-Do as well as taking part.”
Hwang Su-il at front, joined by Speke House residents Franc Iacobucci, John Edwards and Lenny Stone
David Shaw CBE, Chief Executive of Launchpad, thanked both Taekwon-Do experts for taking time out from their busy schedules.
“I am grateful to both Alan and Su-il (check correct naming protocol) for coming to teach our veterans the art of Taekwon-Do. Health and fitness are a big focus for us at Launchpad and we have found that they make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of these veterans.
“Recently, they have undertaken some boxing training from one of our facilities managers but this was a completely new experience for all of them and one they thoroughly enjoyed.
“With Liverpool hosting this year’s European Championships it was a fantastic opportunity to hear both Masters speak of the dedication and sacrifice required to make it to the top of their sport, a philosophy that resonates with our servicemen and women.”
The launch of the initiative coincides with the countdown to the upcoming European ITF Taekwon-Do Championships, which will be held at the Liverpool Echo Arena between 26th- 30th April 2017, where as many as 1,500 athletes from 37 countries are expected to compete.
Tickets are currently on sale at https://www.ticketing.accliverpool.com/echo/online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=A7139A4D-84E4-411E-A8A2-4C3B78BDEA3D at a cost of £16.90 for a full ticket, £9 concessions.
The charity operates two refurbished old people’s homes in Newcastle and Liverpool, accommodating around 80 veterans at any one time.
The majority of residents (95%) come to the charity after a period of homelessness. It aims to get veterans into employment and living independently within two years.
Many residents have welfare and health issues, broken families, drink and drugs issues and some come from prison. Most suffer from depression and about 6% suffer from PTSD.
As well as Speke House in Liverpool, the Newcastle home is Avondale House, in the Byker Estate, which opened in 2013.
The charity’s aim is to stabilise veterans’ disrupted lives and help them on a route to positive independent living as quickly as is sensible for each individual, but ideally within two years.
Since launching in 2013, 260 veterans have passed through Launchpad’s houses, or are still residents. About 35% of residents gain employment and settle into independent living. A further 40% or so end up living independently, but still looking for jobs. Others benefit from a variety of support before moving elsewhere.
Residents come to Launchpad through referrals from MOD contacts, local SSAFA, the Royal British Legion and Service benevolent funds such as ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, as well as local housing associations and council organisations.