At this time of year many people are returning to work feeling the benefits of a summer holiday. From the time when paid holidays were introduced and extended to let ordinary workers enjoy a little time away, and seaside resorts on the Scottish coastline began to blossom.
Taking a break away from the stresses and strains of work and family life is often seen as necessary for domestic harmony and good health but swapping the stress of daily life for busy airports, trains and roads, dodgy hotels, sunburn and, of course, the inevitable family rows can for some feel like jumping out of the frying pan and into fire. For those of us blessed with a mental health problem home, for all its faults, is still a place of relative security and routine that helps keep the mental status quo.
For anyone living with mental health issues there can be significant hurdles to overcome. If your mental health issues were triggered by experiences in the Services there are still further barriers in the Service communities to overcome, both in accepting such problems exist and in seeking help.
Leaving service life either by medical discharge or voluntarily and returning to civilian life presents an often overwhelming change. Since its origins after the First World War, the British Legion is still seen mostly as existing for the welfare of war veterans – usually interpreted as “old” war veterans. Times are changing though, and even the Legion is working on its image and promoting a wider appeal to current serving people and those back from younger conflicts and wars. On the ‘Civvy Street’ and ‘Poppy Scotland’ websites a range of services are available from housing to debt management and even business advice. They also offer holidays for those in need of one.
I recently returned from the British Legion respite centre in Southport where Scottish families can be offered a break and those who go soon appreciate why this service is so valuable. Their dedicated hotel is on the promenade but set far enough away from the seaside noise to offer peace and quiet. Meals are at fairly set times but are not rigid. All this is great but the real value of the environment is the other guests staying there and the attentive staff who all help to make your stay relaxing. Shared history and empathy can break down barriers and allow the relaxation of the face that is often presented to family and friends who struggle to understand the different issues and demons involved. Community spirit exists in many forms and can be especially welcome where explanations are not needed or offered.
With Poppy Scotland and the Royal British Legion in a closer working relationship over the past year or so, the prospect of Scotland having its own respite centre for presently serving and ex-service people is beginning to become a more realistic possibility. At present we have to travel to centres in England and Northern Ireland when offered a respite break. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those places but plenty of ex and serving Scots coping with post-traumatic stress disorders or other mental health problems might prefer a break with less travelling – in beautiful Scotland.
Let’s hope we’re a step nearer to making that happen in Scotland. Meantime, if you are from the service community, why not check out the websites and see what help is available to you and go on – TAKE A BREAK!!
Story by Community Reporter KL