Our Stories from the frontline

We are a charity established and run by healthcare workers in Scotland. We see violence on a frequent basis in our working lives which drives us to continue to work for a better, fairer Scotland. We thought we would share some stories on violence and other things below.

Relax with Robert Part 3: I am the Change

Robert McFadyen

This week’s Relax with  Robert is a short a short 7 minute meditation to help you feel more positive about life and enhance your wellbeing. This one is audio only so find somewhere comfortable, relax and listen. We’ve added a quote from another friend Brigid Russell, executive coach and leadership consultant, who over the past few years has been instrumental in the development of Project Lift’s Leadership Cubed programme for NES and the Scottish Government with her permission. Brigid also coaches the Scottish Clinical Leadership Fellows among many other things. 

Hopefully her words will resonate with you wherever you are on this journey and whatever you are doing

‘I notice the paradox of pace & space, gathering speed. We need pace in responding to a crisis. Yet, relentless pace is self-defeating. Space is needed to rest & reflect. Longer-term, we need space to make sense, restore, & reset. Our next actions will be better for the space

Relax with Robert Part 2

Robert McFadyen

Robert is back again this week with another really useful video that takes you through some easy stress management techniques including deep abdominal breathing, how to focus on the positive and how to relax to allow restful sleep.

To go along with that we’ve added a couple of quotes from Charlie Mackesy from his book ‘The Boy the Mole and the Horse’ which is a great book to read in these uncertain times.

What's the bravest thing you've ever said' asked the boy. 'Help' said the horse. 'Everyone is a bit scared ' said the horse 'but we are less scared together'

Relax with Robert Part 1

Robert McFadyen

We’ve got something a bit different today. All of our Navigators were hired for their caring and compassionate way of being but many of them have other talents too. Robert is no exception, he’s a very skilled clinical hypnotherapist and below he takes you through some relaxation exercises that might help if you are stressed or just having trouble unwinding after a long day. 

We know that COVID-19 has made many people more anxious than normal and that might be true whether you are working on the front line in the NHS, care or other essential sector, living in a high rise flat and feeling very lonely or isolated, struggling with addiction, living in fear of violence or coping with the effects of the virus on yourself or those you love. Looking after your own wellbeing even just for a few minutes a day will be a huge help.

We’ve added, with his permission, this quote from Paul Gray who many of you may know as the former CEO of the NHS, now retired although still very busy, but who we know as a friend and source of sense and quiet wisdom.

So take ten minutes today Relax with Robert and read Paul’s threads on twitter if you can.

‘But as you face into the wind, remember this. Nobody but you could have come this far, despite everything – you can be proud of that, because it’s proof that you can do this’

Paul Gray -quoted with permission from one of his wonderful twitter threads @PAG1962 Tweet

(with hope)

Tam Begbie
Navigator National Coordinator

Today Tam talks about his work with Navigator Scotland alongside our NHS partners and his experience of witnessing that hope can be both contagious and transformative

I joined Navigator back in 2015,  we at Navigator, then and today, work our very hardest with people who have found themselves trapped in a revolving door of violence, chaos and complex social issues. We create opportunities that can change a person’s life from negative to positive. We are not superheroes, we do not have special tools or equipment, we have something so much more than that, we have hope for others that we are able to share with people who have none of their own. Now to some that might seem a bit out there but if you really think about it when you’re at your worst with absolutely nothing, the one thing that can kick start your life again is Hope.  Think about repairing a car, you can replace all the mechanics, tyres, bodywork etc but without fuel you’re going nowhere, Hope is fuel.


We Navigators work in emergency departments across Scotland helping and navigating positive change, we’re taking advantage of the time where people unfortunately have ended up in a hospital bed as a result of violence, chaos and complex social issues. Is that not the best time share that hope with people who can’t escape such a negative existence? If you surround someone with enough hope that hope then becomes belief, belief that “ I can change, I can do things differently, my life can be full of positivity”. This hope-belief  sequence has been the single most amazing combination for positive change I have ever seen in my entire life, but what does it actuality look like? There are no magic wands or jump leads involved.  Hope and belief come directly from human beings, and much like COVID-19 are highly contagious. Our team of Navigators are highly infected with hope and we come into contact with people who don’t have any of their own in a place that creates enough of a reality shock that can make you realise how bad your situation is. This is what we call the ‘reachable moment’ and it allows a Navigator to truly connect with someone who is in distress, pain or lost for ideas of how to make things better.  As mentioned before we have no special tools or equipment, but we have copious amounts of hope, belief, compassion, understanding, willingness to help and ideas about where we can start to really make a difference.


Navigators are extremely resourceful and are never alone when it comes to supporting people. Our first shift in the emergency department, we had nothing more than our pink Navigator t-shirt, a whole load of hope and the idea that trying to connect with people who could be at their worst and in hospital hurting physically or mentally who might want to talk about positive change could actually work. I know a very optimistic outlook, however we had something else, we had the support and hope from the wonderful emergency department staff, hope that we could actually achieve our goal of helping people move away from chaos and on to better things. Coupled with hope we had the most incredible relationship with the emergency department, as soon I realised we had not only the support from staff but their wiliness to go above and beyond for their patients I knew we had cracked how people could be supported and that hope could really create a path to happiness. These very special relationships have continued to grow with all of our emergency department staff, and right up there with hope and belief are the NHS staff themselves.  They are truly impactful for the positive change that happens for people, they are selfless, driven, extremely talented and caring people.


Working with Navigator I have been extremely fortunate to have worked beside and learn from incredible people who have had their own life experiences some good some unbelievably awful, listening to how others deal with and overcome such difficulties and challenges gives me hope, hope that I was able to give to others, this also includes my own hope from the challenges I have overcome.


Part of being a Navigator is being exposed to other people’s negativity and hardship, unfortunately people suffer so much more than a lot of us might realise, I have heard some absolutely horrific stories of how people live day to day and witnessed the physical and mental damage as a result, unfortunately some did not survive. However as a Navigator I have witnessed truly incredible transformations in human beings who had previously written themselves off, people who binned the very thought of being alive but managed to turn it around and utterly thrive in life, how did this happen? Not because of me or Navigator but because of the people themselves, in most cases being surrounded by hope at a time of need by someone who truly cares about what happens to you unlocks a feeling inside us and that feeling is hopefulness. Hope that things can be different, so you start to entertain hope, if you use hope correctly it can be the healer we all need but more importantly it develops belief and self-belief, self-belief that ‘I can, I will, and I will try’. When there is a will there is always a way, and a way is a path and a path created by hope and belief will have a positive destination. 

I hope people understand how important they are, I hope people get to see how wonderful life is and I hope if people are struggling, they have the courage to ask for help.



Rebooting Recovery

Eddie, Navigator
Today's story is a great example of how resilient people can be and how an entire recovery community has adapted to the changing world around us just now so that it can continue to offer support

I am employed as a Navigator for a violence intervention project based in Accident & Emergency departments throughout NHS Scotland. We work alongside our fantastic medical and nursing staff reducing the number of recurring presentations caused by social issues. Due to the current crisis we have been asked to adapt the support we offer and are being proactive and creative in finding new ways to support our most vulnerable patients.

Many of the people we support have addiction issues and in the past they have been referred to 12 step meetings but because of the COVID-19 all meetings are now closed until further notice. In my local recovery community I have witnessed a very positive change. When the lock down closed our meetings people initially feared the consequences of being unable to connect with each other face to face, but addicts if nothing else have a great capacity to adapt, we had to in order to survive active addiction, so the meetings that closed reopened online giving us a platform to continue supporting each other and a place where we could direct newcomers to our fellowship. At first people were sharing their fears but quickly realised this was not helpful and only served to reinforce the anxieties of others. In a very short period of time this changed and the message being transmitted was of gratitude. The old timers with long sobriety and a wealth of wisdom shared their experience of overcoming difficult and challenging times while remaining abstinent. The message then changed to one of hope, a rare commodity in these difficult times and certainly alien to one who is living in active addiction. So the laughter returned and the altruism of the fellowship once more took precedence resulting in the meetings flourishing and interactions with people from all over the world via Zoom.

The first two meetings to close were based in Crosshouse and GRI hospitals, both experiencing very high attendance numbers ranging from 50 to 80 people, as well as successfully introducing patients from the wards. The decision to close was made before the lock down but we were advised and felt as responsible group members we could not risk taking those numbers into hospitals without putting our medical staff and patients at risk. It was with a heavy heart we closed both meetings but I am now delighted to say they are up and running again online through Zoom. Both are experiencing an increase in attendance and because of the simplicity using the app (two clicks and you are on) Navigator referrals have soared and our patients are getting the support from the comfort of their own homes. If it were not for the meetings going online many would have been unable to attend because of issues including anxiety, agoraphobia, physical constraints etc…They can now join us and receive the support they deserve for their addiction issues.

In a very short period of time I have seen the magic working in people’s lives, no longer are they burdening the NHS, their families and communities, instead they are learning how to remain drug free and in doing so have set themselves on the path to becoming contributing members of society and a support for their long suffering relatives. I feel a burst of gratitude writing this and privileged to witness these life changing transformations (I love my job!!! where else do you get to witness people recreating their lives???)

If our fellowships had not seized the opportunity to adapt I dread to think where our members would be now, perhaps as a society we can learn from this. I’ve gained insight into what’s important to me over the past few weeks and it’s not the nice car in the driveway, I’ve not driven it for 3 weeks. It’s not the designer clothes in my wardrobe I find myself reaching for, it’s the more comfortable garments, labels or not, nor is it the drive for success, property or prestige, all thing I have placed great value on in the past. I now know the importance of time shared with loved ones, laughs with friends and colleagues and connection to all things the virus has temporarily stolen from us.
COVID-19 will come and go, the love and laughter will return, the hugs we experience will be heartfelt and we will again experience the joy of each other’s company
Can I take this opportunity to thank all the front line workers who are selflessly attending their work in these trying and uncertain times. To the staff in our NHS, not just the doctors and nurses, but to everyone who at this moment are laying aside their fears and turning up at the hospitals every day to support us. In normal times I am inspired by these dedicated, hardworking and caring individuals, but at these times words can’t describe the appreciation I have for our NHS and its staff.

Let’s support them by staying home!!!!!!!

A big thank you from Medics against Violence and Navigator

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Scottish Recovery Consortium and the Scottish Government’s Staying Connected Fund who have provided Navigator’s Running on Empty Fund with funding to allow us to keep people we support who are members of the recovery community digitally connected during COVID-19. This too will save lives. Thank you!

It's a rollercoaster, but we are in the driving seat

Suzy Glover
Clinical Nurse Consultant Practice Development Mental Health Drug and Alcohol, Sydney

In today's story Suzy looks at how you can look after your mental wellbeing during COVID-19

This year has been a roller coaster. Being deployed as a Mental Health Nurse to a small rural community during the bushfires in New South Wales to support the disaster response was my heads up that this year was going to be a year that I would not forget. 

That experience gave me the opportunity to witness the very best in communities and individuals but also to witness, at times, individuals who could not respond to the disaster for a variety of reasons, one of which was past trauma. 

It was a time to look within and ask questions of society and also personally. 

Again, only a month on and here we all are on the same roller coaster on which the driver is not bushfires but COVID-19. This has brought about rapid changes to the world we know and understand and has impacted everyone in one way or another. February seems like a lifetime ago, when we lived in a world where we took for granted the smallest privileges- meeting friends, going to the cinema, eating in a restaurant and playing and watching sport –which at the moment we no longer have. How do we cope with this? How do we manage the double whammy of sweeping changes along with new restrictions? How do we empower ourselves when seemingly all our choices are gone- but are they?
First of all, it is completely normal to feel concerned, anxious, worried, angry, sad or numb about what is happening right now. How do we look after ourselves and see this time as an opportunity to do that?

Here are some thoughts


1. Stay connected – we are physically distancing but this does not mean that socially or emotionally we are not connected.

2. Be mindfully mindful- work with what you know to be true. With all the social media cranked up to the max, news reporting going 24/7, find a source of truth that reports the facts.

3. You may find yourself being hyper-vigilant or at the other extreme completely switching off. We should all try and aim for the window of tolerance.

4. Ask for help – if you need help don’t put it off- ask, contact and receive

5. Exercise – whatever that means to you – do it. If you can get outside it may help to shift your perspective and shift your mindset by getting going. If you can’t get out- online options are good or just getting about doing daily tasks.

6. Don’t diet but eat and drink mindfully. It is all too normal to fall back into our faulty coping mechanisms in times of uncertainty and stress. Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking.

7. This may sound weird but this could be a time to start that new thing you may have been putting off.

8. Keep to a routine and set some goals for the day no matter how small.

9. Be kind to yourself- check in- and remember the healthy coping strategies that have worked for you in the past. They may need to be adapted but the important part is to remember that they have worked for you.

10. Set some goals for the future – COVID-19 will end – what would you like to achieve when this is all over? There may be some things that you have put in place during this current situation that have actually made your life easier.

11. Finally you have choice right now- believe or not- in how you react and empower yourself to be in the best possible space to support yourself through this time.

Keep well and stay safe

What's the worst thing you've ever seen?

Dr Christine Goodall
Honorary Consultant and Lead Clinician in Oral Surgery

Today's story addresses an often asked question but gives a perhaps surprising answer and looks at how we can all support victims of domestic abuse just now.

This is a question those of us who do school visits for Medics against Violence get asked all the time. Young people are usually looking for you to tell them about something sensational-the patient you saw who’d had the accident with the chainsaw, the awful facial injuries inflicted by a baseball bat, the gang related slashings. But in truth, although those are dreadful life changing injuries that take a long time to fix and leave patients with scars and sometimes deformities that may never resolve, they are not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Not even close.

The worst thing I’ve ever seen was a young woman who’d been assaulted by her partner. I saw her a year after her injury on a clinic in Scotland in the cold light of day. There was no blood, no gore, her injury had healed as well as it could, we thought we’d done a reasonable job. But she hadn’t healed, she was still living with a permanent reminder of the abuse she’d suffered.

This final assault had come at the end of a tyranny of abuse for this woman, her partner had held her down and cut her face deliberately with a Stanley knife, in the worst place possible, leaving her with a long scar that would always be visible to everyone who looked at her and worst of all to her as a permanent reminder of her abuse and her abuser. We had fixed it and she was back a year later for a routine review.

She sat in front of me and sobbed, real heart wrenching sobs, for about half an hour and between sobs told me that she had hardly left her house in a year, she had no social life, she didn’t feel like seeing friends, she couldn’t look at herself in the mirror. She told me her life was over. In one cut her abuser, although on the face of it no longer a part of her life, had achieved his goal of completely isolating this young woman and making her feel completely worthless. He was still very much around.

I’ve seen many victims of domestic abuse since then, with facial trauma, chronic facial pain, broken teeth and all have similarly awful stories of physical abuse and coercive control some spanning many decades. But although it was 20 years ago I will always remember this young woman because her grief was so palpable. I often wonder how her life has turned out. I hope it got better. I wish I’d been able to do more.

In these strange times there are reports of calls to domestic abuse helplines increasing by 25%. We’ve been told to stay at home to stay safe, which is absolutely the right advice, but for those experiencing abuse home does not always feel like a safe place. Many are locked down with their abuser 24/7 and any respite they may have had because of the daily routine of work, school and normal social activity is gone. It may even be difficult to contact a helpline.

Those of us still going out to go to work can, however, offer those experiencing abuse a lifeline. COVID-19 has given us a unique opportunity to get people on their own, whether that’s when they turn up at the Emergency Department, at a Minor Injuries Unit, in the back of an ambulance, at an emergency dental appointment or even at the supermarket. In more normal times victims of domestic abuse are often accompanied by an on the face of it overly caring, but actually over-bearing, partner desperate to prevent a private conversation or disclosure. Social distancing has given us the perfect opportunity for a one to one conversation and it’s so important that we make the most of this opportunity.

Ten years ago at Medics against Violence we developed training on domestic abuse called ASC which was originally aimed at healthcare professionals but we soon realised that we were not the only ones who might have the opportunity to offer help, nor were we the only ones with the skills needed. We extended this training widely including the fire service, hairdressers and vets-it could and should go much further out into the heart of communities.

We know that domestic abuse can affect anyone, old or young, female or male, any culture, religion and social class but the fact is that domestic abuse disproportionately affects women, it is a gendered issue.  It includes coercive and controlling behaviour and physical assault. The most common target of physical assault is the head and neck area, you might see black eyes, broken teeth, strangle marks on the neck. When you consider the facts that a facial bruise in a female is 32x more likely to result from domestic abuse than anything else it makes you realise that if you work in healthcare or indeed anywhere else, you have probably seen many more victims than you might think.  

So, our ask to you during lock down is if you work in a front facing role and you see people on their own, particularly women, with injuries, ask about them. Don’t be frightened of doing this, you may be the only person who does.  You can provide a lifeline and opportunity to disclose and you may be the only person they tell. Even the act of asking can get someone thinking about their situation and their need to get expert help.

If you ask and someone says ‘Yes, this is happening to me’ direct them to the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline 0800 027 1234. It’s open 24 hours a day, the staff provide expert advice about safety planning and will help them to take the next steps.

If you would like to know more about our training please look at our Ask Support Care page on this website where over the coming weeks we will be putting some of our training resources, or, get in touch using our contact page for more information. More face to face ASC training events will happen post COVID-19.

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