Self-Harm Network Scotland Support Glasgow Veterans

To celebrate Armed Forces Day on the 24th June 2023, Self-Harm Network Scotland (SHNS) are highlighting the incredible ongoing collaboration between our Glasgow locality service, and the Scottish Veterans Residences (SVR) at Bellrock Close, Glasgow.

SHNS provides compassionate support, resources, and information about self-harm. We provide support to people who live with self-harm, as well as family, carers and professionals. As well as our online portal, we provide three locality-based services in Dundee, Highlands &Islands and Glasgow. The SHNS service is operated by Penumbra Mental Health, a pioneering charity providing dedicated services for people with mild to serious and enduring mental ill health.

Our Glasgow locality team first reached out to the SVR in November of 2022. SVR provides supported housing for former members of the UK Armed Forces who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Bellrock Close residencies were designed to offer an innovative service providing transitional support for veterans offering them support with health and wellbeing; education, training and employability and future housing needs.

SHNS first attended Bellrock close on the 30th November 2022, and has subsequently become one of our longest standing partnerships since our service began. We spoke to some of the staff and residents at Bellrock Close to find out more about the impact of our service.

Ken Nisbet, Manager:

“When the team first came in, we sat down to discuss what service SHNS could offer us and how we could approach engaging with the veterans in our centre. We discussed the idea of the service taking place in a very relaxed environment where residents could come and have a chat in a very informal manner. This had been a tried and tested approach at Bellrock, which had received great feedback from the veterans.”

“We decided to give it a go and the SHNS team started attending on a Wednesday morning. After initially introducing themselves I felt pretty confident in leaving them to it. From our initial discussions, I trusted that they would be able to cope in that environment and utilise their own lived experience to connect with the residents. Sure enough, it didn’t take long until our veterans started asking them for further 1:1 support.

Lauren, Receptionist:

“I’ve worked here for two years and have seen a lot of faces come and go, including other support organisations. I’ve found there is always a change in the air after the SHNS team has been here. You can see that a lot of the residents’ spirits are lifted after they have had the chance to socialise and chat with the team. You never know what they are going through or how they will feel, and it can change week to week. But being able to build a relationship with your team in a relaxed environment has helped many of them to slowly open up.”

Resident at Bellrock Close:

“Often other support groups or individual support is out of sight. The good thing about SHNS is they come down, they start a conversation, and they ask the questions that other people will often not ask in that environment. Nothing pushy, but they genuinely want to know how you are and what’s brought you to talk to them today.”

The fact that Leigh had lived experience of something similar made a huge difference

Fiona, Support Worker:

“I think the set-up of the relaxed group sessions on a Wednesday morning has helped residents and staff alike to break down those misconceptions and barriers and talking about self-harm. It’s helped a lot of the staff have more discussions and feel more confident when talking about self-harm. I know a lot of the residents have said to me that they didn’t even realise a lot of their behaviours would fall under self-harm. Many of our residents live with substance use or self-medicate. A lot of people might not initially consider veterans as being a group in need of self-harm support. So, the fact that we are here doing this, I hope will help to have a big impact going forward. Veteran’s by nature can initially be quite distrusting due to their past training and trauma. But the peer aspect of this service has really helped the residents to feel like they can trust the SHNS team.

Graham, Therapeutic Counsellor:

“There is a huge opportunity whilst the residents are with SVR to yes, help to set them up for success with re-homing and finding work, but also to be listened to, to be cared for, and to be allowed to speak their truth. From the feedback I have had through some of my sessions, the team from SHNS have given this to the residents. It has allowed some of the veterans to get to a place where they feel they can open up more vulnerably. I think the approach SVR and SHNS have taken with this service is something the residents have never experienced before. It’s obviously a bit unnerving in the beginning, but it seems to have provided a great outlet for the residents to dip their toe in the water.”

Resident at Bellrock Close:

“I think the SHNS team had been attending for a few weeks and I had been trying to open up to them. Leigh (Peer Practitioner) caught on that I was struggling and asked if I was okay. I broke down, but it set the ball rolling with getting my 1:1 sessions set up. Talking to someone helped massively. The fact that Leigh had lived experience of something similar made a huge difference. Leigh helped in many ways. We talked through what I was feeling, but I was also given lots of handouts and worked through some self-harm programmes. It has helped and I haven’t self-harmed in quite some time. It’s all the wee hints and tips that Leigh was able to give me that made a big difference, and I think you’ll only get those from people who have lived experience.

 I just want to thank Leigh, the SHNS team and Penumbra. I’ve made big strides from where I was back in December, and that’s thanks to the support I have received.”

We’d like to thank everyone for contributing to this article, and a special thanks to the residents for sharing their experiences.

If you’re a veteran and looking for residential support in Glasgow, Dundee or Edinburgh, visit the Scottish Veterans Residencies website for more information.

If you, someone you know, or a colleague needs self-harm support, visit the Self-Harm Network Scotland online portal. Here you can get information, advice and self-refer to our service.

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