My name is Savannah, I’m 26 years old and I’m originally from Teesside. After being medically discharged from the British Army last year, I found gaps in the veteran mental health support system, which I believed would be fairly simple to fill. I designed an app which would do just that.
Winning a place on the Virgin Money Foundation Young Change Makers Fellowship allowed me access to a great team of Virgin Money mentors which, alongside the support given by Northern Soul and the awarded funding, has meant that the app will be launching at the end of this year.
Through Northern Soul, I have rebuilt my self-confidence and my abilities - something which is easy to lose when leaving the military - I have learnt practical, strategic skills through my Virgin Money mentors - without which, I wouldn’t have even known where to start - and through my fellow change makers I have made lifelong friends, who understand the drive (and stress) of needing to make change to our respective communities.
The absolute highlight of the programme for me was meeting people with the same desire for change. Being new to change making, I hadn’t considered that there were so many others out there who are already creating so much change in their communities, and so many willing to help those of us pushing for it. It has been amazing to meet so many people within the Virgin family who are willing to support us, as well as others who were willing to give up their time to speak with us about their change making. I had a brilliant Virgin Money mentor team, and I was even lucky enough to have two fellow veterans amongst it.
As part of the programme we were able to choose a location to visit, which is relevant to our community and change making, and so next month I will be visiting America for three weeks. I am starting in San Francisco and travelling East through Arizona, Texas, New Orleans, Virginia Beach and Washington D.C., learning about the support available to American veterans and where they may also have gaps in the support available.
During this programme I have registered as a CIC, launched a podcast - ‘Through Veterans Thoughts’ - and taken my app concept from an idea to a reality. The next big step for me is to fully launch the app at the end of this year, but I am also co-hosting a Remembrance weekend art therapy and exhibit in November, a fundraiser winter ball in Henley on Thames in December and I will be organising a large launch event in 2023 to raise awareness for the app.
The aim is to see it rolled out one day through the MoD and being used by both serving personnel and veterans, but I like to think that eventually this app will become obsolete; with greater improvements around mental health acceptance and support in the military. I think there is a stereotype that all veterans will experience some form of severe PTSD, which has had a negative impact in the past on veteran recruitment, however mental health is just as varying in the military as is it with civilians. Certainly not everyone will have a mental health issue, but for those who do need support, this app will guide them to reaching the help they need.
I am excited to see what the future holds for myself and my fellow change makers.