WE WILL REMEMBER THEM In a room at the old Walton library, now Mersey Care’s Life Rooms centre for recovery and wellbeing, a small group of men and women, gather for an art session.
t’s part of a pathway programme for veterans graduating from Tom Harrison House, a military veteran addiction recovery centre. The programme content is decided by participants. Anthony Muldowney – a former army ‘slop jockey’ (chef) had a hard time when he launched the group. Until he told them he was a veteran – “then they stopped seeing me as a stiff in a shirt…” he recalls. There’s an unspoken acceptance, the military vibe is strong.“You can feel it. They just want a break, to chat, laugh and joke. They often feel they’ve been let down and forgotten by the forces they served. They just want to be able to talk with people who have the same lived experience.” Social isolation can begin a spiral of despair and frustration. Andy (not his real name) has spoken openly to the group about being sectioned and heavily medicated after sinking into a deep depression. Veterans are notoriously private, it’s a huge breakthrough. “They put on a front in public” says Anthony. Here they don’t feel they’re being analysed. He’s become a totally different person since he first came here.”
Ideas for sessions are discussed among the group. Anthony’s suggestion of a session on bereavement was quickly dismissed as ‘too heavy’. It wouldn’t have been easy anyway for him – he’d received news a few days before of the suicide of a close army colleague for whom civvy life became too much. “It was so upsetting to think we’d trained together and the work we’re doing now might have benefitted him.” The strength of forces camaraderie is being replicated in the group. Anthony recalls the moment a group member with autism presented his creative writing. “It took a lot of courage and the others recognised that with their cheering and applause.” The programme includes support for training and looking forward, employment. Anthony says every workforce should include ex service men and women.” “They’re never late; they’ll very rarely take time off sick. They’ve been trained to problem solve, to deal with crises. They just need time to adjust and through this programme we’re making sure we don’t forget them by helping them move on with their lives.”
Anthony Muldowney - a former army ‘slop jockey’ (chef)
You can find out about First World War centenary celebrations at: 1914.org Mersey Care events are at merseycare.nhs.uk
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust magazine.