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New support programme for Scottish veterans launched

 

Ex-servicemen are to take in a pioneering lifestyle management course

A new support programme for Scottish veterans has been launched.

Scottish veterans are to take part in Thistle’s pioneering lifestyle management course delivered as part of a new partnership with forces charity Help for Heroes.

Thistle, which was initially set up to support injured soldiers coming home from the Second World War and now supports people with long term physical and mental health conditions and disabilities, has developed a Veterans Programme to support veterans to manage their wellbeing.

Help for Heroes is working with the Edinburgh-based charity to enable up to 12 of the Scottish veterans they support to take part in the 10-week health and wellbeing course, which starts in April. The weekly sessions, led by experienced practitioners and trained volunteers, will focus on exploring coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, building self-confidence and self-esteem, sleep, understanding anger, recognising triggers, getting active, and relaxation.

The first group of ex-servicemen and women come from all over Scotland, ranging in age from late twenties to late sixties, including Gulf War veteran Kevin Muldoon, from Glasgow.

Muldoon, 64, who suffers from PTSD following service with the Royal Corps of Transport in Iraq,  said: “I went through a really bad patch. I started drinking, I lost my marriage and tried to take my own life. But I picked myself up, I’ve stopped drinking and I have a new partner. I am looking forward to the course. I hope it gives me peace of mind and helps overcome the nightmares I have had for over 40 years.”

Help for Heroes veterans’ clinical adviser Duane Fletcher – who first met Muldoon in the field hospital he ran in Iraq - said: “We are delighted to work with Thistle to support our Scottish veterans in a safe and supportive environment. While the first course will be delivered virtually due to Covid restrictions, we hope the group may eventually be able to meet in person and that we can refer more of the veterans we support to Thistle in the future.”

Course leader Claire Cumming, veterans’ health and wellbeing practitioner with Thistle, said: “Adjusting to civilian life can be hard for veterans, especially those living with long term health conditions. The lifestyle management course has supported many veterans to develop their confidence, feel more in control and connect with others, and we’re excited that this partnership with Help for Heroes will help us reach more veterans, preventing a health crisis from becoming a life crisis.”

Among those supporting the veterans is Help for Heroes ambassador Brian Brown, from Edinburgh, who was medically discharged in 1999 after being injured in Northern Ireland. Brown, 52, also served in Bosnia and the first Gulf War with the Royal Highland Fusiliers and Royal Scots, and attended the Lockerbie air disaster at just 21.

Ten years ago he was diagnosed with PTSD and cirrhosis of the liver and was given just two months to live and has since been supported in his recovery by both Help for Heroes and Thistle. As a result he is now a passionate ambassador for both charities.

He said: “My world fell apart after my diagnosis. However doing the Thistle Lifestyle Management course and having clinical treatment from Help for Heroes at the same time really complimented each other and made my recovery journey so much better. I hope I can help the veterans doing the course have the “lightbulb moments” I had and realise they are not on their own.”

Help for Heroes is continuing to provide ongoing support during Covid restrictions, including benefits advice, counselling sessions, fellowship and support via phone and digital platforms, to injured veterans, service personnel and their families. Anyone serving or veterans who are wounded, injured or sick and in need of support can visit  www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-support/ or email getsupport@helpforheroes.org.uk

Thistle is an Edinburgh-based health and wellbeing charity supporting people who are struggling with a long-term health condition or challenging life situation to regain control and live well – ensuring a health crisis does not become a life crisis.  Founded in 1944 to provide support for disabled ex-servicemen returning from WW2, Thistle continues to offer a dedicated veterans support service today.  You can find out more about support available at www.thistle.org.uk or by emailing referrals@thistle.org.uk

 

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