By Greg Luckhurst
FOLLOWING the death of a former servicemen and rugby player, organisations and individuals from Dorset have been in touch with Echo to promote their services and help to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Ex-rifleman Jamie Davis passed away earlier this month after a long struggle with PTSD. His wife Alicia said that Jamie didn’t receive any help from the army with regards to his PTSD and said it contributed to his death.
Although Dorset is a county with one of the highest densities of veterans, there are alternative facilities out there for former servicemen, as well as those suffering with mental health.
One such service is the Christchurch Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club, part of a national organisation a growing network of veterans ‘breakfast clubs’ both here and in Europe.
Held on the first and third Saturday every week, the group offers an ethos of moral support and provides a relaxed environment in which individuals can talk freely with like-minded people about their personal situation.
Admin for the group, Paul Brady said: “We encourage veterans and those who may be struggling with isolation to come along, relax in a social environment and just talk to someone.
“We have members from SSAFA come along every couple of weeks to offer support to people who need it
“The guys that come along are of all ages, some are still serving, have been long retired and some who have recently left and are struggling to adjust to normal life.”
With close connections to the Armed Forces Community Health and Wellbeing Team at Royal Bournemouth Hospital and hopes of opening a veteran’s hub at the Royal British Legion in Christchurch to offer support seven days a week, the Christchurch Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club is a welcomed place to go.
Their next coffee morning is Saturday, January 18 from 10am-12pm at the Iford Bridge.
SSAFA Dorset also run a Woodland Wellbeing Project at Livability in Holten Lee, on the edge of Poole, an outdoor course for service veterans who are experiencing physical and mental issues.
Group members have the chance to cook outdoor and make items about of wood whilst talking with other former servicemen.
Bob Perry, who runs the project, said: “I get people referred to me from my other case workers, but it isn’t just open to SSAFA clients. Anyone with PTSD or any other mental or physical issues are welcome to come along
“I know there are people out there that feel the same way as Jamie did. The thing is with people with PTSD is that they think they are the only ones and they have to suffer it alone.
“Sometimes we make spoons or bird boxes but other times we put a kettle on the stove, sit down and just have a chat. It is just so therapeutic and cathartic, and the friendship and comradery that is made between the guys is so important.”
The courses are due to run in February and March, with the next one due to be held on Monday February 17.
The group are also looking to set up a men’s walking group, where current and former servicemen can come along and enjoy a walk in the Dorset, and have the chance to open up about their personal situations with likeminded people.
To find out more, contact Bob on 07785275150.
In November, the Echo reported that over 8,000 working-age veterans live in Dorset, four per cent of the national total, well above the national average.
Another similar organisation is the Veteran’s Hub in Weymouth a community project that was set up as a part time venture in late 2017 with the intention of providing a safe and secure location for veterans and their families.
However, following several tragic veteran suicides over a very short period in our area of operations in July 2018, the decision was made by founder Andy Price and two of his colleagues to take on the project full-time.
After reading about Jamie’s story, Andy felt compelled to get in touch and let people know about the project.
He said: “Incidents like Jamie’s shouldn’t be happening because he shouldn’t be in a position where he doesn’t know where to go
The fact that Jamie’s wife said she didn’t think he would be supported when he came out of the forces is horrendous
The Veterans Hub run support clinics and have regular visits from BraveHounds, an organisation which helps to train dogs to work as supportive and relaxing companions for those suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues.
Phoenix Wellbeing, a relatively new private therapeutic counselling service run out of Ringwood, run one-to-one counselling sessions to help people with mental health issues.
Its founder Jo Sims, a former practicing mental health nurse, became aware that, due to the stresses and strains on the national health service, some people were falling through the gaps and missing out on the help they needed.
“I think the problem is that people go to their GP as the first port of call, which they should do, and ask to be referred to a group,” she said. “However, because these services are fully booked or stressed, people don’t know where to look outside of that.”
“I read that he hadn’t received any help from the army and that when he went to go and see his GP, they didn’t know what to do.
“It jumped out at me because it is a deeply upsetting story and I felt so sad for the family, but also the fact that there seems to be a gap between people going to their GPs for referrals and the services that the NHS supply.
“It struck a chord with me and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
The Samaritans have also offered their support to anyone experiencing isolation and mental health issues.
Bournemouth director Mark Wildey said: “Bournemouth Samaritans are actively building relationships with local military bases, not only for serving but ex-serving and families as well.
“We receive contacts from military and non-military people who disclose that they have PTSD and we give them time and space to talk about how it affects their lives.
“People in the military can feel pressured to appear strong, but underneath we are all the same and suffer from the same vulnerabilities. Jamie witnessed a lot in his short life, and we would encourage anyone, military or not, to use a service like ours to talk about how they feel.
“Samaritans are there for anyone who has feelings of distress and despair, and that includes PTSD, via our freephone number, 116123, text, email or they can visit our branch in Durrant Rd.
The crowdfunding page set up in Jamie’s name has reached over £6500 and many local rugby clubs have organised fundraisers to add to the total.
Oakmedians Rugby Club in Bournemouth held an adult quiz night on Friday, raising £400 for the Jamie’s Memorial Fund.
Dorset rugby teams held a minute silence before their games on the weekend in honour of Jamie.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
If you or a Veteran you know is suffering from PTSD, Anxiety, Loneliness or Depression, you are not alone.
The – Minds At War – Crisis Support Helpline Number is open 24/7 and a First Responder is on call at all times.
- 0800 031 4368
You can also ring this same number during normal hours and seek advice, support and guidance.