Douglas Hamilton-Cox Walks 4000 Miles for our Wounded

Douglas WB1

Loyal Help for Heroes supporter and ex-soldier Douglas Hamilton-Cox has just completed an epic 4000 mile challenge that has seen him raise over £100,000 for military charities.

71 year old Douglas set out to walk from his home in Devon to Royal Wootton Bassett to honour the fallen who were repatriated in the town, after frequently driving the route. Over the following 5 years, Douglas walked an incredible 4000 miles to far flung places across the UK including Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham where the wounded are treated, and to John O'Groats. Help for Heroes is personally connected to Douglas after his nephew was seriously injured in Afghanistan and he says 'it is a charity close to his heart'.

Douglas was overwhelmed by the support he received all across the country from the little girl in Coventry whose father had died in conflict to the number of Veterans that came out to support him. 

A welcome party of dignitaries and loyal supporters welcomed Douglas into Wootton Bassett on his final leg, to congratulate Douglas for completing such a huge challenge in support of our wounded, injured and sick Servicemen, women and Veterans.

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Beat Insomnia for a good night’s sleep

Elizabeth Hancock, Psychological Wellbeing Advisor at Help for Heroes, looks at the importance of a good night’s sleep and how you can beat insomnia.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Insomnia is a common problem and is thought to affect one in three people, with the elderly being the most affected. Signs of insomnia may include: waking up several times in the night, waking and not able to get back to sleep, feeling tired, poor concentration and feeling irritable.

Insomnia can be associated with poor lifestyle, mental health conditions, physical conditions, stress, anxiety, medication, and poor sleep hygiene. It can last for a short period of time, but for some people it can last for months and even years.

Cant Get To Sleep

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is a critical part of our lives for our health and wellbeing. It helps the brain and body to rejuvenate and can regulate our mood, reduce stress, and improve memory.

It may become more difficult to take in new information, concentrate and focus if we are sleep deprived. Research shows that an ongoing lack of sleep has an increased link to heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes.

A normal amount of sleep for an adult would be around seven to nine hours, although this is down to the individual and what they feel is enough sleep for them. If you are having trouble sleeping or staying asleep, you can seek professional help from your GP.

Tips to beat insomnia (sleep hygiene):

  • Adopt a routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day
  • Take a warm bath an hour before bed
  • Avoid electronics and bright screens up to two hours before bedtime
  • Try listening to audiobooks or music at bedtime
  • Think about your sleep environment (heat, light, noise etc.)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
  • Relax, unwind and clear your head
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping

Insomnia Photo 2

What are nightmares?

Nightmares or night terrors can be triggered by psychological reasons, including mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression – although you can also experience nightmares without any mental health problems.

Nightmares tend to only happen in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is the last third of the sleep cycle.

If you experience a nightmare you may wake up feeling anxious, nervous and scared. You may not be able to get back to sleep as a result. It is common to experience a nightmare now and then, but if you are worried about the amount of nightmares you are experiencing please seek support from your GP.

If you would like to assess how well you sleep and seek guidance and support, the NHS choices website has a sleep self-assessment tool that could be useful: http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Sleep-self-assessment.aspx

If you’re a Veteran or an Armed Forces family member, get in touch confidentially with our Hidden Wounds team here to find out more about how your mental health might be affecting your sleep.

 

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Heroes to the rescue

A group of wounded, injured and sick veterans from the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester responded to a plea for help by local counsellor Dave Harris after a World War 2 bunker was defaced with graffiti only weeks after it had been painted by local school children.

Bob Ward And Melvin White

Help for Heroes Band of Brother members Melvin White, Bob Ward, Ryan Lewis and Help for Heroes Band of Sister, Karen Usher, discussed how to refresh the shelter and Ryan, a 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery veteran, came up with the design which included all of 16 Air Assault Brigade’s Drop Zone flash badges and Pegasus insignia.  Drop Zone flash badges are worn by the UK Airborne Forces and all squadrons of the RAF Regiment and were initially introduced to meet the requirement for identifying and co-ordinate Airborne Forces on drop zones and at rendez vous points.

16 Air Assault Brigade, are based in Colchester and many wounded, particular Serving Personnel, use the Recovery Centre as part of their recovery journey after becoming sick. For Ryan it was important to maintain local military links within the design.

Ryan, who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 said: “When I heard about the project I knew exactly what I wanted to include in the design. The Brigade play a big part in Colchester’s community and I wanted to keep that link between our serving, our wounded and remembrance. It was also good for me and my recovery to have something to focus on.”

Dave Harris said: “For the community to rally round and work with Help for Heroes is a statement of how we feel about the army in our town. We have a special relationship for our army service men and women.  This project borne out of a negative vandalism story and will be an inspiration to passersby.”

Drop Zone Badges

The Colchester Recovery Centre provides a space for wounded injured and sick serving personnel and veterans as well as their loved ones to recover. A range of activities and opportunities are open including taking part in the world class sports recovery session, welfare support and guidance, a psychological wellbeing team and holistic sessions such as yoga, massage, pilates, and arts and crafts. To find out more about the Recovery Centre could support you or a loved one please visit www.helpforheroes.org.uk/how-we-help/recovery-centres/

Low self esteem or lack of confidence?

Steve James, Psychological Wellbeing Advisor at Help for Heroes, writes about boosting your self-esteem and having the confidence to make decisions.

Confidence and self-esteem can have a huge impact on each other. The two are often confused, but they are very different. Self Confidence is all about skills and how well we think we can cope with something, whether it goes well or not. Self-esteem is how we value ourselves and our rights, in relation to other people.

If you’re struggling to cope in either of these areas, it can be anything from relatively simple to quite complex so it’s important to seek the right type of support.

Confidence

Here are some tips for building self-confidence:

  • It’s about repetition; getting it wrong as well as getting it right
  • Confidence is not ‘on’ or ‘off’ – you can feel levels of confidence in different areas of your life. It may be helpful to remind yourself of the areas in your life where you are confident; for example at work, playing sport, doing a hobby or spending time with your family.
  • If you are feeling anxious about doing something you lack confidence in, try writing down a couple of outcomes you think are likely and what resources you have available to you (both from yourself and others) to deal with them if they do happen.
  • You may have heard the expression ‘fake it ’til you make it’. There is definitely a useful element to this idea; try acting in a more confident manner or standing in a more confident way, even if you don’t feel it inside. It may also help to imagine yourself in a situation where you feel more confident or even thinking of someone whose confidence inspires you.
  • You can’t be brave unless you are scared; life is full of people acting differently to how they feel inside. The tricky part is finding the balance where a lack of confidence doesn’t stop you doing things you’d like to do.
  • With decision making, remember it’s very rare that there will be a perfect option. If there’s a choice or decision you’re struggling with, try writing down the pros and cons of each option and, if appropriate, try a little internet research (just make sure you only use reliable sources).
  • It’s important to know that confidence will come, even if you don’t feel it when you start.

Here are some tips and points for building self-esteem:Believe In Yourself

  • Self-esteem often varies depending on where we are and who we are with. It can go from feeling really bad about yourself to actually feeling ok about who you are.
  • Good self-esteem is about accepting that you’re human – just like everyone else – with all the good and the bad that go along with it.
  • A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself what you would think if a friend were in your situation. If someone else has the right to speak up for themselves, so do you.
  • Try writing down three things each day that you have done.
    Next to each one, try to think of three positive characteristics that the activity shows. For example, you might write:  “Wrote shopping list – organised, practical, methodical”
  • If you tend to criticise yourself a lot, try turning that critical voice in to a comedy voice. While this may sound silly, it’s a proven technique in reducing the emotional impact of self-criticism.

Above all else, remember that there is lots of mental health support out there. If you’re a Veteran or an Armed Forces family member, get in touch confidentially with our Hidden Wounds team here to find out more about the support available to you.

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Coping with the symptoms of depression

Kayleigh Hopkins, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at Help for Heroes, explains what the symptoms of depression are and how the Hidden Wounds service can help Veterans and Armed Forces families to manage the symptoms

Depression can be described in so many different ways. You might be feeling low, down, sad, tearful or miserable and the experience of depression can be different for everyone. The symptoms below show that there is a link between negative thoughts, behaviours and physical changes when we experience depression. It can be helpful to consider your own experience of depression and how they may fit into the areas below so that you can find a way to break the cycle and start to improve your mood.

Depression Definition

Depression can often be experienced with a mixture of the following symptoms:

Physical Changes

  • Tiredness   
  • Tearful   
  • Headaches
  • Tense shoulders/neck
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Poor Concentration

 Negative thoughts

  •  I’m a failure
  • I can’t be bothered
  • I give up
  • I can’t get anything right
  • I am horrible to be around

Behaviours

  • Doing less activities or things you enjoy
  • Sleeping/Napping more
  • More irritable/snappy
  • Comfort Eating

Coffee Cup Depression

By getting in touch with our Hidden Wounds service, we can help you discover and understand your personal cycle. We’ll then support you in developing the skills needed to start lifting your mood.

One of the most helpful ways we can do this is by remembering that is completely natural to want to do less when we feel depressed, but not forget that this
can lead to difficulties in the long term.

For example we don’t achieve things like getting dressed in the morning, leaving the house, not paying bills, cleaning or doing house work, and many more which are all very common behaviours when we feel depressed. The Hidden Wounds team can support you in gradually starting to increase your activity level in certain areas, which has been shown to help improve mood.

If you’d like to find out more about getting support for depression, you can leave a confidential message for the Hidden Wounds team here. You can also call them on 0808 2020 144 or email them at hidden.wounds@helpforheroes.org.uk

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