The Stress bottle – before counselling?

Most years sadly we assisted many Mountain Rescue Teams with taking fatal casualties of the mountains. I do know it effected me over the years. Yet in these days it was just get on with it. At time’s despite your efforts a Walker climber would die even after huge efforts by teams. In these days we were told it was “part of the job.

Weakness –

Any sign of weakness was rarely accepted and “man up” was the phrase used. You must appreciate this was the 70’s.

The Stress bottle

As a young lad from 18 years old tragedies on the hills or aircraft crashes became a part of my life. As was a long journey home from Lochaber Glencoe, Skye, Kintail and many other places. Often without a shower or a debrief and straight back to work sometimes to Bosses who had no clue some thinking you were on a jolly! That as a young lad was hard to take.

Over the years things improved and the horrors of Lockerbie and the lessons learned were hard fought for. Many in the military took years to appreciate the effects on some of the team.

When I became Team Leader in the late 80’s I did try to change things. I pushed for the team to stay together after a fatality if it involved a long journey home.

We had a “stress bottle s of whisky” kept on the Control wagon and many unwound with a drink after a nasty job.

This was usually after a tragic or difficult incident in these days there was little advice on what to do ? This was our way at that time of dealing with it.

We all deal differently with things and a few were effected badly by what they did and saw and still are.

I was one of them it took me years to admit this to those I love. Families had no clue what was going on in some of our heads!

Alcohol was not the way forward yet at the time it’s all we had ? I am glad things are different now?

Comments welcome !

Al Swadel – Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time

Alan Swadel – I think what was important was not only the drinking but it gave the troops an opportunity to unwind and chat about what we’d just been through. A decompression of some sorts before going home. I always thought it important that the troops stayed somewhere overnight before going home after a big job. Not only to recover physically from the hard work but to get time to mentally digest what we’d all just been through and discuss it with people “who understood”

Steve Grasper – Debriefing with your mates who where there, in a quite corner of a pub somewhere (with no “outsiders” eves dropping) over a few pints and letting the pressure slowly release, the questions be asked and even a bit of the “black humour” to flow, when you are in safe and trusted company goes a long way towards avoiding long term problems for individuals, strengthens the bonds between team members and even goes towards doing a “better” job next time

Angus – excellent article as usual Heavy, yes the Aultguish provided ‘stress relief’ and an opportunity to talk on a few occasions after difficult shouts.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Friends, Lockerbie, medical, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Stress bottle – before counselling?

  1. Tony B says:

    Excellent piece Heavy …. as a suffer from PTSD I can endorse all your comments and observations ….in my time there were lots of civilian call outs plus 3 aircraft crashes which even now are still spinning round in my head , I have received help over the years , and still do. There are
    medications to help but there is a “price“ your body has to pay for their help .
    The latest help is “Tapping” https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/search?q=emotional%20freedom%20technique
    Also check this out ….
    https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/can-having-anxiety-make-you-feel-tired
    SMR are more aware of the PTSD now days and support is given .
    But I guess we just wish it would go away not just for us but for our nearest and dearest too, thanks for speaking out . Like you I would welcome comments .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I share with all the comments made on this article, it is an excellent awareness. I found solace in being with the group in the Kintail pub/Hotel, so pleased I was not driving, must have been tough on the drivers. Also found some solace in the Hotels of Aviemore. While I am on the post today I would like to share this clip.https://youtu.be/05T03vfK0-8 Whistles and torches should have been made compulsary as well as rectifying a few other flaws.

    Like

  3. Jim Higgins says:

    There were no counsellors to counsel the counsellors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hammy Anderson says:

    After 20 years in M.R. I was surprised at the number of RAF personnel who were unaware of our existence and even less aware of what we went through. I still have the odd restless nights with flashbacks to some of our callouts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Iain says:

    It is never a easy part of the job having to deal with a fatality especially if it’s a youngster or a friend that’s succumbed on the hill, the stress bottle does has a part to play in the aftermath of such a tragedy. But so does all getting together and talking about the incident helping to de-stress people’s built up feelings.
    There are so many other avenues people can now take to help in these situations as well, which is all good

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alan Jackson says:

    I can’t remember the exact date or details of the incident but must have been winter 66-67. Fulmar MRT assisted with a carry from the back of the Ben and it was my first involvement with a fatality.
    The Stress bottle was certainly in evidence when we got back to Fort William. In those days there wasn’t any alternatives. If my memory serves me, I think the Police that had also been involved in the incident got Jimmy at the Imperial Hotel to open the bar in the early hours and they joined the troops in having a few drams and a few songs. It appeared that this was the standard way of dealing with this type of stress whatever “service” was involved.
    I still remember thinking how ‘defiant’ the singing appeared to be. (If singing can ever be defiant!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alan Jackson says:

    I have one of the HMS Condor -Arbroath team posted yesterday on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/alan.jackson.7712 I was taking the photo but my SARDA dog is in it – the only one the Navy ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

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