Royal Marine on mental health mission launches competition to fund new youth hub in Exmouth

An Exmouth Royal Marine tackling community mental health has teamed up with the town’s students in a bid to fund a new youth creative area.

Tom Merriman, aged 36, a physical training Instructor at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, launched RV-ONE – Rendezvous First Checkpoint – before the start of the Covid pandemic.

Now he has joined forces with Exmouth Community College (ECC) students to launch a competition to design a snood, with the winning design being manufactured and sold to help fund a creative space for young people in the town.

Tom, who joined the marines at 18 years old, and is being supported by Exmouth-based military mental health charity Rock2Recovery, said: “RV-ONE believes that prevention is best.

“When mental health injuries occur in childhood or adolescence and aren’t treated, they can continue into adulthood. We wanted to team-up with the school to address the issue of mental health early.

“There was already a big demand for community mental health support before the pandemic. Now that demand is even bigger.

“As a marine, team work is at the heart of my thinking. I was struggling, which led me to wonder whether there was anything I could do to help anyone else who was also struggling.”

It is hoped the snood design project will encourage students to be creative while highlighting mental wellbeing and raising funds for the community area.

Exmouth DJ Stuart MacCleod has secured mixing equipment for the proposed hub.

Rachel Wright, head of Post-16 at Exmouth Community College, who is taking on the Three Peaks Challenge for RV-ONE with colleagues Lucy Burch and Vicky Rowsell, said: “It is essential that we work with the community and build links to support our families at a time where it is needed more than ever, so we’re excited to be part of a project supporting this link.”

Prior to the Covid lockdowns Tom had set up a host of outdoor activities in a bid to boost mental health – including beach fitness sessions.

He hopes to resume the mental health meet-ups when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Dad-of-three Tom, who has completed tours of duty in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, formed RV-ONE after struggling with his own mental health after he was crushed and trapped in a vehicle during training in 2007.

He said: “RV-ONE isn’t just for people in the military or blue light services, it’s for anyone struggling with mental health.

“I set the group up because I was struggling myself. Sometimes, you don’t know where to go, and think you’re alone in your struggles.

“But there are places to go, and you’re not alone. The meet-ups are a relaxed space for people to talk and support each other.”

He added: “I realised I had to get help. And I realised that struggling with mental health is something lots of people go through.

“If you’ve got a brain, you’ve got mental health, and sometimes it will be healthy, other times, not so healthy.

“How you deal with it, is what’s important.”

  • To sponsor Team ECC, which is covering all expenses so every penny can go to the hub project, see here.

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