The unique service for veterans living in Scotland is providing life-changing support – enabling ex-Servicemen and women to live the life they want to lead.
For Chris,52, the Thistle Foundation’s self-management course was a lifeline. “When I first came onto the course I struggled to talk to anyone. Then I realised that no-one was judging me and that made all the difference.”
Chris joined the Army at 16 after a troubled childhood. After an incident in the Army that resulted in him serving time in jail, he struggled to adjust to ordinary civilian life. He had not dealt with his past, his experiences in the Army or his time in prison. His life became a blur of drug addiction and petty crime.
Chris was introduced to Thistle, a health and wellbeing charity based in Edinburgh, which supports people living with long term health conditions. The charity runs a self-management programme for veterans – a specially tailored course which supports veterans making the transition to civilian life and dealing with conditions such as depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The course is unique in that, with support from Thistle staff, it is shaped and run by veterans who themselves have been through the course and dealt with similar issues.
Each course includes 10 three-hour sessions, which take place weekly in a group setting. The course explores a different topic each week such as sleep, anxiety and stress and understanding anger and assertiveness. Thistle also provides one on one support for veterans, as well as outreach.
The course has helped Chris immensely, “I find that I am much more relaxed now. I have more confidence in talking about my life and that has made a difference to me and my son. Our relationship now is better for it. When I started coming to Thistle I had problems with my health and was having trouble sleeping. I still sometimes get night terrors but it’s not nearly as bad now. The main thing for me is that I have made friends here and I look forward to coming.”
Due to its success and the need for such a service to support people like Chris, the Scottish Government’s Self Management Impact Fund has awarded the programme £155,877 so Thistle can now double the number of veterans it supports through the course.
Chief Executive of the Thistle Foundation, Diana Noel-Paton, said: “The self management course for veterans works because veterans are there for each other. They can relate to each other. And once they have completed it successfully, veterans go on to support others who are experiencing similar difficulties. We know that a ‘peer support’ approach is hugely successful as individuals can say “me too” and share how they coped with what was going on in their lives.”
Diana continued: “Our services are flexible, adaptable and are there to help people find their own way forward. With the right kind of support, people can become more informed about their condition and better equipped to cope with everyday challenges.”
With Thistle’s support Chris has been able to turn his life around, “If it wasn’t for Thistle I wouldn’t be where I am now” he said. Chris now plans to support fellow veterans by training to become a co-facilitator on the course – sharing what he has learned with others.
For more information about the course or to book a place, contact Pat Mackinnon on: 0131 656 7336 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The courses take place at Thistle’s Edinburgh base in Craigmillar.