Fourteen wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans recently met for a weekend retreat with Professor Paul Gilbert and Dr Deborah Lee to learn more about compassion.
The three-day course, ‘A Breath of Compassion’, was facilitated at Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Tedworth House last weekend and was hosted by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, founder of Compassion Focused Therapy and the Compassionate Mind Foundation and Dr Deborah Lee, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Berkshire Trauma Service.
The course was a first for Help for Heroes with one wounded soldier saying that it was ‘worthwhile, thought-provoking and soul searching.’
Using mindfulness to improve wellbeing
The retreat helped those affected by their military service to be more compassionate and less self-critical. With useful exercises such as mindfulness, breath work and using imagery, the group could find what worked for them and start to improve their wellbeing by training their minds.
Another member on of the course said: “Paul and Deborah really understood the trauma, difficulties, losses and grief that veterans and serving personnel go through after suffering injury or trauma and the unique difficulties in overcoming them.”
“I cannot say how enjoyable, useful and informative this course has been - it's like no other I have ever been on before. The facilitators were extremely passionate about their work and delivered a tailored course to suit the needs of the group. It's a thoroughly thought-provoking course that I would recommend to anyone, as we are all human beings. We should be taught this way of life at school from a young age.”
"These individuals probably didn’t want to be medically discharged... We are trying to help them understand compassion and give them hope and find peace of mind."
Professor Paul Gilbert said: “Veterans and military personnel have a lot of courage – they need it to do their job so it can be difficult for them to engage with pain. Through teaching individuals about compassion, it encourages them to engage in painful feelings so they can accept their trauma or loss. There is a big difference between kindness and compassion – kindness is remembering a friend’s birthday whereas compassion is finding the courage to do the right thing.”
Dr Deborah Lee said: “When you are serving or have served you have different layers of loss. These individuals probably didn’t want to be medically discharged so they could have lost their identities, their role, their mental or physical health, their family and friendships. We are trying to help them understand compassion and give them hope and find peace of mind.”
Theresa Mitchell, Psychological Wellbeing Service Lead at Help for Heroes added: “There is now strong scientific evidence to show that the way we treat ourselves and how we speak to ourselves in our minds affects our mood and wellbeing. Being self-compassionate improves mental resilience, self-acceptance, calmness and wellbeing.
Help for Heroes Psychological Wellbeing Service
Promoting compassion and resilience to aide wellbeing is at the heart of the Psychological Wellbeing Service at Help for Heroes and the idea for this Wellbeing Retreat was borne out of discussions around developing a compassionate environment at Help for Heroes for beneficiaries and staff.
The retreat provided Veterans with an introduction to the neuro-science, key concepts and practices such as mindfulness, breath work and imagery to help them understand and develop compassionate minds.”
The group will continue to use their new mechanisms to understand and develop their compassionate mind and improve their wellbeing.