Yesterday I wrote a piece on my blog on the use of alcohol in my early days con Mountain Rescue? Many will know I was at Lockerbie, (270 Fatalities) The Shackleton crash on Harris ( 9 fatalities) and the Chinook on the Mull of Kintyre (29 fatalities) Add in nearly 40 years of mountain Rescue dealing with a constant stream of fatalities you can see why I and many of my team struggled over the years . It effected me personally and my life right up to recently.
When I asked for help in 1988 for me and my team. I got a really hard time from the military authorities for showing weakness. These were the days where we just got on with it according to many. Most who had no experience of what we had dealt with. So we coped as best we could and often a drink was taken after a hard incident.
Families had no clue what was going on in our heads and many over the years have spoken to me of their long term problems.
Things are better now but still there is still a long way to go.
See below from some of my friends their comments .
“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.”
Tony – “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 any comments.”
“A very honest post Heavy, it rings true to me that is for sure.”
Dougie Crawford – alcohol
“It’s a depressant…..”
Lots of interest on the piece I wrote some good replies via Facebook l thought others may want to read them!
My advice is:
No matter how tough you feel you are please speak to someone you trust.
Look after your mates, keep an eye on them. We were lucky we knew each other well but a few were missed over the years.
It’s ok to be feeling down at times .
Do not take the easy way out with drink or drugs it’s not a long term solution.
Everyone deals with things in their own way and react differently.
I still get the “Black Dog”at times .
First coined by the Roman poet Horace and later adopted by Winston Churchill to describe his own depression, the metaphor of the “black dog” has been used for centuries. … It is easier to say you are having ‘a black dog day’ or ‘the black dog on my shoulder’ than it is to say you are depressed.
This is often before the anniversary of Lockerbie near Christmas . I get solace from going into the hills on my own and clearing my head. Nature heals, I also have a few trusted friends who I can chat to. Going to America and meeting so many of the families who lost loved ones at lockerbie has helped me so much. We were on a Cycle to
Syracuse University where 30 young students were killed on the flight. Speaking to many of the families was cathartic and gave me so much peace after years of struggling.
Not many of us can do that but each has to seek a way through these dark time’s.
Take care and never be ashamed to ask for help.
Hammy Anderson – “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.”
As always comments welcome.
Di – “We were the same when we went to medical incidents. When I was aeromeding in and out of the gulf when we got back to Brize all the medics went into a room with a few slabs of beer to debrief and say how we felt and how we could improve things before we went off to our rooms. We only had a couple of beers but I felt it let people open up easier and people tended to be more honest in a protected area.” Dianne Mcleish I don’t advocate alcohol.at all, but in the context of debriefing and relaxing, it’s probably a relaxant in moderation, more than a depressant….good point.
Dougie Crawford – “Getting pissed and sounding off, (as well as a host of other anti social outlets) that we have all relied upon is the military way of cheap treatment. Any qualified mental health staff will emphasise its negative effects…all that is produced, at best is a consensus of mutual suffering. Reconstructive counselling takes guts, is performed sober as a necessity and takes time. Throwing beer at traumatised personnel is morally and ethically insulting. You have done a lot to champion an enlightened approach mate,…that in the context of all our senior years and experiences took a huge dollop of courage and comittment….ridiculously, fighting stigma and the culture of its acceptable to be emotionally stunted, still stalks any of us who have or continue to face, trauma, in the course of our lives.”
David Whalley – Douglas Crawford thanks mate I agree about the miss use of alcohol but it was at the time all
I wonder how many alcoholics it produced ? We all know that was true these were dark days for many. I hardly drink now and getting help was really hard and still is.
At the time we did our best I hope it is a bit better now?
Thanks all your comments help raise some hard points to discuss.