Operation Mirror successful in providing support during pandemic to counter 'mini war'
- Credit: Bridge for Heroes
An operation set up to counter Covid-19 has been successful in providing support to armed forces veterans and their families during a "very stressful" 14 months.
Mike and Helen Taylor, founders of the Bridge for Heroes charity in King's Lynn, which provides mental health and wellbeing support for serving and veteran members of the armed forces in the area, have been made MBEs for their work.
Mr Taylor and his team developed a front-line operation to deliver their support to vulnerable people in the community during the pandemic, which included activities and delivering meals and medicines.
The 56-year-old, who served in the British Army for 18 years and served in Germany, Northern Ireland, the Gulf War and Bosnia, described the past year as one of the "most difficult years for over 100 years".
He said organisations did not have the expertise, training or equipment to deal with it but that Operation Mirror was launched to "counter Covid-19", which involved work with Public Health England, the NHS and the World Health Organisation.
Staff were given advanced training, suits and decontamination equipment and the service was adapted to offer support in people's houses to ensure people with problems including depression, homelessness, eating disorders and anxiousness could access help.
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Mr Taylor said: "We increased our capabilities and staff.
"In the pandemic we have done over 8,500 interactions, we have visited at least 850 homes."
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He said at the peak the charity was "overloaded" and the MoD funded temporary staff to deal with the demand, adding staff and volunteers were "working flat out".
"It was sleep, eat and work, almost like a military operation, like a mini war", he said.
"Covid is your enemy, we had to go out with rules and standing operation procedures for it.
"Some days it was so stressful it was shocking."
Mr Taylor along with specialist advisers set up 10 front-line teams and extended their support across Norfolk and as far as Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and London.
He said: "It was supposed to be King's Lynn and west Norfolk but because we're human and most of us are ex-military, if we got a call beyond that we did it."
The charity currently supports 210 active cases and Mr Taylor, who himself has complex PTS, is urging armed forces personnel to reach out to get help if they need it.
He said: "The systems here are a one-stop shop, you don't need to have an appointment. It's an immediate service.
"I was fine for the first seven years of the organisation and then I started to get ill myself, it took me a while to reach out so I hid, which wasn't the right idea."
The charity founder said the pandemic has increased the numbers of people in need of support, which he expects will continue to go up.
He said social isolation is one of the worst issues that has risen during that time.
He added: "People were tested and even we were, because you don't know when the end is.
"When we serve in the military we know we're going to Iraq for a six month operation, so we can see the end and we know then we're going to come back to a safe country, but with the pandemic there was no end and where were you going? You live there.
"We met someone a few days ago who only just came out after 14 months, they were scared, so it's got quite a deep impact. Which I think in the next two to three years we'll be trying to recover from."
On being recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, the 56-year-old said he was "humbled, honoured and shocked".
He said his wife thought her computer had been hacked when she received the email.
He added: "We're very proud and we could not have done it without everyone around us."
To get help contact Bridge for Heroes on 0300 111 2030 or to donate visit justgiving.com/campaign/opmirror