A CHARITY in Ayr is leading the way in breaking down the stigmas of mental health with their residential treatment centre for veterans.

Hollybush House helps ex-armed forces members recover from a range of mental health problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with the majority of their patients being male (over two thirds).

The progress made in dispensing with pride and masculine outlooks on emotions has helped people who suffer from a mental illness being treated earlier. In the last decade, referrals for mental health treatment has decreased from 13 years from leaving the army to an average of four now.

Clare Armstrong, treatment centre manager at Hollybush House said: “I think it’s become more widely accepted amongst people leaving the forces, and I think mental health in general is a lot better accepted, and the stigma is less.

“But usually what happens is veterans will present to us following some sort of crisis in their lives so they’ll deal with this for a long time until something goes wrong. It might be a breakup in relationship, trouble with police then they come to us.

“I want us to reach people before they get to that stage. We’ve done some work with the forces and people are getting better at recognising they need help through education and more exposure in the media. I think the message is definitely getting out there and we certainly promote our work widely across the UK. In addition we have the contract with the Scottish Government to provide these services for veterans in Scotalnd.”

Clare believes society’s views on men’s mental health is shifting and it is helping more people being seen. She added: “I think attitudes have changed. I think historically in the forces it’s been pretty much stiff upper lip and get on with it and it’s a sort of male pride thing and a very masculine outlook on how you deal with your emotions.

“I think that has started to change and there is much more focus generally around male mental health, coping with emotions and it’s not a sign of weakness. I think that’s made a huge difference.”

Part of the work at Hollybush House involves a residential programme, the only one in Scotland, lasting six weeks. It helps PTSD specifically and involves one-to-one therapy sessions as well as group work and education. It not only treats patients therapeutically, but equips them with the skills to cope when they go home.