As part of funding awarded to Cheshire and Merseyside to prevent suicide, each local authority area was given money to address men’s mental health and tackle the associated stigma. Here, Veterans in Sefton, one of the organisations to receive funding talks about the programmes they have implemented and the benefits they have seen as a consequence.
Since the latest lockdown restrictions, we have managed to arrange two Holistic Anabasis trips during December to North Wales, taking in total 16 struggling men for a much needed break at the mountain hut. The Anabasis Mountain hut is situated at Garth Farm Capel Curig, Gwynedd, North Wales.
As a charity we are members of the British Mountaineering Society and have full access to the hut and all its amenities. Veterans in Sefton make use of the hut in two different ways.
Firstly, it can and already is used for individuals or small groups to visit along with one of our mentors, this is in part self-funded by the individuals if possible. However, If the individual does not have the means then we will assist.
Secondly, our Holistic break is now funded by the grant, this includes a three-day trip to be held over eight months for up to eight service users with mental health issues. The break is based on various individual and group structured activities. It is supervised and co-ordinated by Veterans in Sefton’s Project Manager and supported by our Holistic Care team consisting of a fully qualified Counsellor plus two of our highly skilled Befrienders/Mentors, and a therapeutic dog.
The benefits of being in nature, with the time and space for reflection and free from distraction has been shown during the Pandemic, agreed by Psychiatrists, Therapists and Clinicians alike – it is proven to dramatically promote mental health and well-being whilst maximizing the potential for recovery. This “Holistic Break Experience” is an integral part of the charity’s objectives in the re-orientation of its user base back into society. Users of this Holistic programme have loosely called it “The Magic of Anabasis”
The breaks enable beneficiaries to mix with others in similar situations and to share their common experiences, creating new friendships.
Early intervention is proven to reduce the likelihood of developing or compounding pre-existing mental health issues. Our bespoke personal support plan identifies the emotional and practical needs of the beneficiary. We work closely with partners and stakeholders, specialists in housing, debt management, training, mental health etc so that we can provide a trusted support service. If possible, we do not refer on, we own the case and ensure solutions are delivered.
This project will support community cohesion in the wider Sefton area and facilitate the smooth transition from being in a dark place to investing in life, employment, education and training as well as, fully integrating back into the community.
In addition to the Anabasis Mountain Hut programme we now work with an organisation called “The Rucksack Club” which gives full access to: Beudy Mawr at the heart of the Llanberis Pass, High Moss in the Duddon Valley at the foot of the Walna Scar track over to Coniston, and Craigallan looking out over Loch Linnhe within easy reach of Glencoe.
We have put a programme into place that will come into effect as soon as Covid restrictions allow. This gives us the means to deliver a lot more outdoor activities to vulnerable service users.
Resulting from the outdoor activities we have made available two courses for volunteers and service users. A lowland leaders’ course enabling participants to organise walking groups. They can then progress to a mountain leader course, developing at a professional level.
For those less active we have a Horticultural course based at our allotment at Harris Drive Bootle. The grant has given us the opportunity to purchase training and equipment.
Veterans in Sefton also offer well established NAFFI breaks – social gatherings in a relaxed setting. We now offer four breaks – Tuesday in Southport, Wednesday general, Thursday the Seniors’ at the Brunswick and a Friday drop in at the allotment. This gives people the opportunity to mix and to make connections with others. There is always support at hand whether it be a friendly face or a more professional intervention.
A member with a Brain injury who has difficulties with concentration and struggles massively with exams and IT, has just passed a very intense horticultural pesticides course. He stated “I have managed to cross the line of my fear”
A week after trying to take their own life – “Initially I had counselling, having someone who is prepared to listen and not judge was enormously helpful to me. I soon started to regain my self-esteem and become present in my life. I am now an active member of VIS, I have started taking care of myself i.e. gym, healthy eating. I can’t imagine my life without the project”.
You can find out more about Veterans in Sefton here