For Armed Forces Day, Richard Henderson, Live Life Partnership Manager, writes on the gap in support for veterans and their families, and how we’re working with partners to help address this:
As of 2019, there are an estimated 240,000 veterans living in Scotland, and the broader veterans’ community living in Scotland, including family members and dependents, has been estimated to make up 10% of Scotland’s population.
There are pressures in everyone’s life, and veterans are resilient people who often do not look for help and feel they can manage on their own. This lack of engagement can escalate the issues veterans might be facing, and in turn puts more pressure on their loved ones – with consequences including family break down and increased mental health issues.
There are currently very few services available in Scotland which provides support to veterans as a family unit rather than individualised treatment. Whole-family support is crucial. The impact injury and trauma has on a veteran is felt by the whole family, not just one individual. Families have had to live with the stress and anxiety of having a loved one away on deployment - and then, when that loved one leaves the forces, they can develop poor mental health or may already suffer from it. Unmanaged stress or poor mental health can lead to conflict at home affecting young people, which in turn can have an impact on their health and wellbeing, negatively impacting their life chances.
Our Live Life Partnership addresses the needs of Scotland’s veterans and their families with person-centred and relationship-based support. Cyrenians has a long established history of providing Mediation and Support to tackle relationship breakdown in Scotland – one of the leading causes of homelessness. With the Live Life Partnership we’ve brought together our award-winning Mediation and Support team with seven other organisations; our collective expertise can help assist with stress, and the mental and physical difficulties that affect veterans and their families. By doing so, we’re supporting people to build more positive and stable futures.
Alongside creating safe, supportive spaces for family members to talk things through, exploring matters that have impacted them and their loved ones, we provide a range of activities and services to help build connections and promote positive relationships – everything from coaching and drama activities, to horsemanship, art and cooking classes. We do everything we can to make this as open and accessible as possible – including free transport for families to attend respite and other activities such as our family farm days.
Fundamentally at the core of this is a person-centred approach that doesn’t seek to ‘fix’ peoples’ problems for them, but rather to build trust and connections and to support people to find solutions that work for them. This way of working carries across everything we do at Cyrenians, and it’s what we’ve done for over 50 years – because it works.
No matter the length of time served or the nature of your inclusion in the wider veterans community, everyone deserves the support they need to lead valued and fulfilling lives.