A former soldier with many years’ service in the Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish Regiment is one of the first to take advantage of Duncan Bannatyne’s offer of free membership for veterans with PTSD.
Robert Allen (60) applied to the Bannatyne Health Club in Ayr and was delighted to be offered the opportunity to become a member.
He admits that incidents during his service in Northern Ireland between 1986 and 1999, including the murder of family, friends and Army colleagues, led to a very difficult period that saw him relocate to start a new life in Scotland.
The former rugby player and professional coach wants to speak out to encourage other people in a similar situation to seek help. Robert has engaged with Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, and credits the organisation with having a massively positive impact on his life.
Duncan Bannatyne gave his backing to the Sunday People’s Save Our Soldiers campaign and offered hundreds of free memberships for veterans with PTSD, with every one of his 72 health clubs taking part.
Robert said: “This is an amazing gesture from Duncan, one which many other businesses could and should take notice of.
“I know the hugely positive benefits of exercise and how beneficial it can be for anyone living with a mental health condition.
“It is also vital that help is sought at the earliest opportunity. I have struggled for many, many years and it is only over the last two or three years that I have asked for, and received, support.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Combat Stress and have been volunteering with them to help others going through bad experiences. It’s organisations like this, and companies like Bannatyne’s that give us hope for the future.
“The Ayr health club is really welcoming and there’s an air of real positivity around it. I’m looking forward to being a regular user and getting to know the staff and fellow members. Thank you Duncan!”
“Physical activity can seem like the last thing you’d want to do when you’re going through a tough time, but it can do wonders for your body and mind. Being active reduces stress and anxiety levels. It can also help slow down racing thoughts and help you to sleep better. The free health club membership offer to veterans with PTSD will provide many with the opportunity to get active – it’s a great initiative,” says Jolandi du Preez, Lead Occupational Therapist, Combat Stress.
Duncan, 70, told the Sunday People: “I truly believe our armed forces are the best in the world. I think they do an amazing job and the bravery that comes with doing the job they do is outstanding.
“If I can help in a small way such as giving a free membership to help combat PTSD, then I am more than happy to do that. It is something that is very dear to me.”
Duncan’s dad William endured three-and-a-half years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Second World War and was starving to death before liberation in 1945.
William, an infantryman in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, had been captured while fighting Japan’s invasion of Malaya and Singapore in 1942.
Duncan said: “My father was somebody who did not really talk about his time as PoW. However, over the years I did get bits out of him and when I hear what he endured it makes me so proud to have seen how brave he was.”
Duncan’s military background is one of the reasons he feels strongly about the plight of troops with PTSD.
"I truly believe our armed forces are the best in the world. I think they do an amazing job and the bravery that comes with doing the job they do is outstanding."
Duncan, , told the Sunday People
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