Looking after each other – “well being mental health awareness” The stronger some were the more the “Black Dog” can hit.

I never knew what the “Black Dog” was I heard the term used in the 70’s when I was young and thought I was invincible. The term is said to have originated with Winston Churchill, who was often quoted as referring to a “black dog” when he felt unmotivated, churlish, or otherwise unproductive. Depression is a hidden illness and effects many in so many ways. I have seen so many powerful folk real leaders struggle with their mental health.

As I get older I realise how important mental health is. I am glad things are being taken far more seriously nowadays. I know when I was I’ll a few years ago for me the main thing me was my mental health. I had had several bowel operations that knocked me out. No one could help as it was very private. I struggled but made a point of trying to get out daily. I am so lucky to be near the sea and forestry. That kept me going fresh air and space was what I needed. I had no garden which did not help. I had to remain strong as I could despite the constant pain. I also could not sleep which is common and ended up having naps in the day. This led to broken sleep patterns, no energy add to that living alone and I had to be near a toilet. It was a difficult time.

Sadly I have known a few incredible folk who have died in the mountaineering world through suicide. Some were carrying injuries and could not cope with the loss of things they love. A few cannot cope with getting old and not being the “top dog” any more. I was never a top dog and have learned to cope with age and the bodies aches and pains. Just to be out in the wild is what I need. I do not have to summit but just to see the places I love and walk away from the crowds is my medicine.

How can we help our pals who struggle ? Many were the strongest people in their field cope with their problems? This is so relevant today with the Ukraine crisis, COVID the cost of living can take you into a dark tunnel.

What helps me – I only watch the news once a day you can be dragged into this tragic world of non stop darkness. Yet there are so many doing good things that rarely get reported.

Get out into the fresh air daily as often as you can. Various medical problems may restrict but you still can get out.

Exercise – do what you can despite the limitations you will feel better.

Mental well being – if you pals are struggling do not ignore them. Try to chat and if COVID allows visit them. A few will retreat into their world and get very depressed. Company can be helpful so keep trying and listen.

I have to be careful myself and it’s easy to get down after trying to help. Be careful as we can only help so much. It’s hard to get professional help just now but appreciate what we have.

Photo – T Bradshaw

Families – I was at a “well being” conference last weekend run by Lifelines and Scottish Mountain Rescue. It was refreshing to see what is being down by organisations. It’s easy to talk about what you plan do improve your care. It’s another thing to do it. I think they are doing so well. I was impressed that families are being helped how to cope with husband, partners, wife’s and families dealing with “Well being”

Photo Scottish Mountain Rescue.


From Glen – I agree Heavy, but it is a very difficult task to care for anyone once they have left the system. Keeping in touch is essential, which is where facebook, reunions, hill meets come in. It is not just traumatic events, but the loss of comradeship, like the loss of a family that affects many. The adjustment to civilian life can be fraught with difficulty, leading to isolation, loneliness, and excessive alcohol consumption. We know so many great troops have gone this way. More emphasis pre-release and support schemes should be encouraged, such as veterans groups can provide.

I always say “ we spent our time in the Emergency Services looking and helping those we rarely knew”. Yet do we look after our people in times of need? Many years later when I have found that folk have left the Emergency Services still struggle with their demons as do their families?

Comments as always welcome ?

Lifelines – well worth a read.

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 Articles, Friends, Health, Mountaineering, PTSD, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Looking after each other – “well being mental health awareness” The stronger some were the more the “Black Dog” can hit.

  1. Mark Roger Bruce Ellis says:

    Thank you, appreciate your thoughts, encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

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