Kelty veteran founds mental health charity that partners ex-armed forces personnel with rescue dogs

Mick Cairns with his dogs.Mick Cairns with his dogs.
Mick Cairns with his dogs.
A Fife-based former Royal Marine veteran has founded mental health charity, A Veteran’s Best Friend, that partners ex-armed forces personnel with rescue dogs to help combat trauma.

Mick Cairns, who served in the Royal Marines for 15 years and completed two tours in Afghanistan, decided to start the charity that pairs veterans with dogs to provide companionship and therapeutic support after attending a similar group in the west of Scotland called Bravehound, and wanted to provide a similar service in the east.

Mick, who himself was diagnosed with PTSD, suffered in silence for seven years before seeking help, wants to help other veterans who may be needing support.

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Mick, who lives in Kelty, said: “Before I was diagnosed with PTSD I was signed off from work in October last year, my dog Sam knew there was something up with me, his expression was different, his behaviour changed and he was always trying to put his paw on me, like he was trying to comfort me.

"After I was diagnosed, I was involved with Bravehound and I wanted to do something similar in Fife but with rescue dogs.

"We only formed in September but when we are fully up and running we plan to hold drop in sessions for veterans and give them a safe place to come and talk – we don’t have any dogs yet but we have a few rescue centres that have agreed to partner up with us.”

The charity has set out to provide assistance for veterans, promote mental health wellbeing, rehome rescue dogs, raise awareness to mental health issues and to challenge the stigma that surrounds it.

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"It took me seven years to get help,” Mick adds. “I was in denial, but I’m lucky, I have a very supporting wife and family who have kept me going through it all.

"If you get a physical injury you go and get it fixed, but with mental health there is a stigma that surrounds it, I want veterans to know that it is ok to talk.

"I want to help others, my dogs as well as my family have helped me through some tough times.”

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