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Alex Berezynskyj

Amesbury company helps fuel veterans’ mental health support

An Amesbury company founded by an Afghanistan veteran has celebrated four years of trading, while supporting other veterans through donations and fundraising for Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes.

Combat Fuel Supplements Ltd, based at Southern Quarter, in Sunrise Way, was founded by 30-year-old Alex Berezynskyj in 2018, following his shock medical discharge.

The former Royal Anglian infantryman, who was also a qualified physical training instructor, said: “I had a few problems with mental health and a knee injury and found out I was being discharged from the Army.

“I really struggled with what to do. I thought I’d be fit enough to recover and go back in. But a medical board told me I was done forever: ‘you can’t even re-trade’.

“As I was a PTI, I thought I’d look at something in the fitness industry. With support from Help for Heroes’ recovery events, I started looking at becoming a personal trainer. I requalified, joined a gym in Andover, and went from there.

“I was happy; the money was OK, and I found my feet after three or four months, but I was still struggling in the civilian environment and still having treatment.

“I moved away as I had no fulfilment, I felt I had no purpose. I was just ‘going to work’ and felt, in my recovery, I’d got a lot of help through helping others, which is when I conceived and founded Combat Fuel.

“I found supplements interesting; I’d always used them, and it seemed like a natural transition for me. Right from the start, I started donating back to Help for Heroes with five per cent of the profits.”

He credits the charity with getting his life back on the rails after he was admitted to a psychiatric unit, and even contemplated suicide.

He recalled: “Help for Heroes was amazing at getting me out of my shell. I started talking again; I began to acknowledge the impact my mental health was having on my life and accepted I would never be the ‘old me again’.

“The realisation hit that this was something I would need to learn to live with and that ending my own life would only pass the burden onto someone else – my pain would stop but my family and friends would then carry that pain.

“The judgement-free zone, being able to undertake therapy and talk freely without fear of being detained and being put back into a psychiatric ward, was invaluable to my recovery.”

Combat Fuel offers products – from pre-workout to whey and vegan protein powders – made to specifically engineered formulas that are 100 per cent military and athlete safe.

Berezynskyj, who is originally from Cambridgeshire, added: “There are a lot of poor supplement products on the market and, often, the claims they make are very selective.

“I didn’t want to just produce market-leading supplements, but, as we said in the Army, the ‘basics done well’. It’s well done, with no fillers, and no bulk agents – not in anything we do.”

Although he no longer works full-time with the company, it remains his passion. But he’s realistic enough to put his own physical and psychological wellbeing first and foremost, and his spare time is spent with maintaining his fitness and attending therapy sessions. And he’s now committed to helping others who may be going through a similar experience.

He explained: “It’s really important to talk about mental-health issues. A lot of people say they’re a mental-health advocate and it’s good to talk, but they tend not to. Everybody knows mental health is an important thing, now; you wouldn’t meet a person in the street who says they don’t know about mental health, everybody does.

“But people need to feel safe and feel able to open up and talk about anything – from struggling in relationships to PTSD. Fortunately, we’ve had that in the gyms I’ve worked – as we do here – and at Combat Fuel. Here, we’re a big friendly fitness family, of all ages and genders.

“We’re very empathetic to people who are struggling. Sometimes, if you signpost them to therapy, they might take a step back and say ‘I don’t want therapy’; they don’t want to talk to anybody officially, but it’s nice for them – and still for me, in fact – to know we can rock up through the door and, whatever sort of day we’re having, we can talk about anything, and anybody will listen.

“Everybody knows that, and we’re all singing from the same song-sheet. Because the gyms are like families, you just know when something is not right with somebody, and people will step up and ask them if they’re all right. And we notice if people don’t turn up; we don’t have sleeper members.”

The next stage for Combat Fuel is for the company to secure its own warehouse and depot as part of its expansion plans. And, along the way, Alex wants to make a difference as well as a profit.

“Help for Heroes and Combat Fuel is a real story of how important it is to help others. I was on the brink of losing everything and now we walk side by side helping other veterans,” he said.

Help for Heroes believes those who serve our country deserve support when they’re wounded. Every day, men and women leave their career in the Armed Forces as a result of physical or psychological wounds.

The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives, and has already supported more than 26,500 people.

Image courtesy of Dave Bowers, Help for Heroes