“Knowing Scotty’s is there, even though I am 18, is comforting. They have always been there for me, they’ve made a big difference to my life.”
18-year-old, Steven Murphy, was just three years old when his dad, Lance Corporal Murphy took his own life. Here, Steven talks about the challenges he’s overcome and how support from Scotty’s Little Soldiers has provided him a lifeline.
The last 14 years have been an uphill struggle for 18-year-old Steven Murphy. Experiencing the death of his dad at just three years old has left a lasting impact on Steven and over the years considerably impacted his mental health. At just three years old, Steven was also diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). His mum Rachel was told at the time that her son would never live a normal life. During the same year, Steven’s dad, Lance Corporal John Murphy took his own life.
Lance Corporal Murphy died on 7 January 2007 after serving 16 years with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. He left behind a young family - wife Rachel, and two young children, Steven and Emily who was just two years old at the time.
The day his dad died changed Steven’s life forever, but it was during his teenage years when Steven really started to struggle. His mental health declined so severely that his mum, Rachel, was fearful for his life.
As Steven has grown up, he’s learnt to manage and process his grief and channel his emotions into something productive.
One constant pillar of support for Steven over the years has been Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity set up to offer integral support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
Steven and Rachel talk here about how the support from Scotty’s Little Soldiers has helped him overcome the challenges life has thrown at him.
“I wouldn’t have got through my childhood without Scotty’s”, explains Steven, who joined the charity at seven years old.
His teenage years were some of the most challenging. His mum Rachel explained: “Steven just didn’t get on with school, he couldn’t relate to any of the other children and his mental health really declined.”
Deeply concerned for her son’s wellbeing, Rachel took Steven to the doctors, only to be told there was an 18-month waiting list to be referred for counselling.
Rachel said: “Steven went through a really dark period, he’d say to me, ‘I want to talk to dad to ask him why he did what he did’, I was terrified that he meant he didn’t want to be here anymore. I couldn’t wait 18 months for him to get some help, so I phoned Nikki at Scotty’s Little Soldiers in floods of tears, and she was able to arrange a referral to a counsellor for Steven in two weeks.”
Steven added: “It was a very rough period; at times I didn’t know whether I’d get through it. There were points during that time when I was really bad, but since then I’ve improved so much. The support provided by Scotty’s during this period was invaluable, they were able to refer me to a specialist counsellor who has really helped me through my issues. This wouldn’t have been possible without Scotty’s.”
Steven’s outlook today is very different. He recently set up a small business selling upcycled vintage clothes online and has an unconditional offer in place to study Business Management at Plymouth University.
He’s also waiting to take his driving test. And these achievements he credits in part to Scotty’s Little Soldiers, and the support programmes it offers – Smiles, Support and the grants available through its Strides programme. He said: “The grants available through Scotty’s have made a huge difference, I have used the Scotty’s Driving Grant and will be taking my driving test soon. I also have an unconditional offer at Plymouth University to study business management next year and will be able to use the Scotty’s higher educational grant to help support my fees.”
And his mum Rachel couldn’t be prouder, she added: “Steven has overcome everything that life has put in his way. He’s overcome some amazing hurdles and the incredible help Scotty’s gave him was just what he needed at the right time.”
Steven turned 18 on 28th April and has since graduated from Scotty’s to the charity’s Springboard programme. The programme has been specifically designed to support bereaved Forces young adults, aged 18– 25, ensuring that as soon as a young person reaches adulthood that they receive support that is suitable for their developing needs.
Steven said: “Knowing Scotty’s is there, even though I am 18, is comforting. They have always been there for me, they’ve made a big difference to my life, they understand me and make sure I never feel alone, so keeping that support network, even into adulthood will be a huge benefit. I know that organisations like the Veterans' Foundation also play a huge part and donations from them make it possible for Scotty’s to do what they do and I’m so grateful for that.”
Scotty’s Little Soldiers was set up in 2010 by war widow Nikki Scott and offers integral support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the Armed Forces.
Nikki saw the devastating impact the death of her husband, Corporal Lee Scott, in 2009 had on their two young children and wanted to help others in the same situation.
The charity is currently providing assistance to hundreds of bereaved Forces children and young people around the UK and services offered include guidance to parents and carers, access to professional child bereavement support, personal education and learning assistance (including grants) and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.
Scotty’s support is provided through four Family Programmes:
The SMILES programme
is all about fun and engagement and includes activities, gifts and group events, which have the purpose of making bereaved Forces children and young people smile again and reminds them they aren’t alone and are part of a supportive community.
The SUPPORT programme
helps look after emotional health and wellbeing and includes information and guidance on childhood bereavement and access to professional bereavement support.
The STRIDES programme
focuses on the education and development needs of bereaved Forces children and young people. This includes promoting a positive attitude to learning and providing opportunities to develop life skills. It also includes a range of small educational grants.
The SPRINGBOARD programme
provides support to young adults ages 18-25 and assists with opportunities to develop their education and learning, build a career and enhance life skills.