How Making Miniature Models Is Helping Veterans Recover

A veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has found relief through making and painting model planes, trains and figures.

Former RAF Fireman Paul Metcalf was in a dark place for many years - at his lowest point, he was sleeping in his car and even tried to take his own life.

He has now decided to help other veterans by setting up a modelling club at Catterick’s Help for Heroes recovery centre. A small group of veterans meet on a regular basis to sit quietly and paint miniature models.

Paul Metcalf painting a model 150219 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Paul Metcalf gets great enjoyment from model painting.

“I think it’s just the concentration,” Mr Metcalf told Forces News, when asked why he enjoyed model painting.

“You get into this zone and you’re not thinking about anything else.

"You just concentrate on what you’re doing so you’re not thinking about bad things.”  

Research suggests it takes veterans on average four years to seek help for psychological wounds. Mr Metcalf is now an ambassador for Help for Heroes’ Cut the Clock campaign that aims to reduce mental health stigma.

Mr Metcalf says his life is now better but he continues to struggle with PTSD.

“I’ve got a flat now in Penrith… It’s great I absolutely love it there and I’ve got a double bed, I’ve got all that sort of stuff but I’ve never actually slept in my bed yet because I think I'm going to have nightmares and flashbacks," he explained.

“So I actually take my medication, sit on the sofa with the tele on and wake up in the morning.” 

Minature models at Catterick painted by veterans 1502019 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Models painted at Catterick’s Help for Heroes recovery centre.

Former RAF Sergeant Martin Langford has both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis which causes him severe pain.

“I got so many problems,” Mr Langford said.

“On a morning when I get up I can’t close my hands and basically I’ve got to warm them. Keep moving them until I can move them fully again.

“It brought on depression, anxiety and everything because I couldn’t see any future. Basically I just saw myself getting worse.” 

“This place has really, really brought me, not to full health, but where I feel I have a life again.”

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The trio all believe painting the models has helped them.

Former Lance Corporal Taff Watkins suffers from arthritic symptoms and the shakes. Not so long ago he was a keen rugby player but that all changed when he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.

“Anything I can do to just manage is what I’m trying to do,” Mr Watkins said.

“[It was difficult] Coming from being really, really active and [being] so proud to wear the uniform and then instantly stopping overnight.

“It’s taken me a lot of time to adjust to what I can do and what I can’t do.”

The club is still in its infancy but has already agreed on its first big project.

The Yorkshire Air Museum have asked them to build a Lancaster, a Typhoon and a Mustang for them ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day later this year.

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