Plans are afoot to set up similar operations elsewhere in Glasgow, while the existing Centre continues to extend its sphere of influence, organising everything from , voluntary visits to sheltered housing schemes, to evening classes in baby

To open a special three-page round-up of

complementary health issues, Mark Fisher travels to the outskirts of Glasgow to see the first Centre for Stress Management in action.

It was as ifthey’d placed the burnt-out wreck of a car in the middle of the road specially for me. Had I been on commission from some Sunday supplement to chart yet more examples of suburban decay, this would have been just the image of Easterhouse I was looking for. Happily not, however. The Easterhouse I was after was just up the road at the Centre for Stress Management, a pioneering development in an unassuming three-storey block of converted flats that’s trying in its own small way to make life more bearable for the residents of one of Europe’s most poverety-stricken housing schemes.

Set up fifteen months ago by the Association for Holistic Medicine with grants from the Greater Easterhouse Initiative and Strathclyde Regional Council, the Centre provides local people with a service of counselling and therepeutic massage at a cost according to their income (often free and never more than £8 for an hour of one-to-one treatment). The two counselling rooms and three massage rooms, sensitively decorated and vigorously heated, are a peaceful haven that give people the rare chance to indulge themselves, away from a world of continual demands and pressures. ‘It’s to do with people caring for themselves,’ says administrator Judith Robertson. ‘That’s the whole basis. If people don’t want to care for themselves then nothing will happen for them.’

Almost from the start, the Centre was a success. Within a month of opening, bookings stood at 80 per cent of capacity and even though an extra room was added last autumn, they reached 100 per cent by the beginning of this year. The phenomenal response rate has been the Centre’s strength in raising money; the Easterhouse Initiative saw that the therapists were fully-booked and in April happily

Baby massage is one of the several services ottered by Easterhouse's Centre torStress

upped the stakes to allow three days‘ '

operation per week. The Centre is keen to go full-time including evenings and, because the demand is clearly there, it is in the fortunate position of not having to argue with the authorities about the nature of the physical and psychological benefits of its service. Were it to do so, however, its case would be equally strong. All the therapists I spoke to had stories of the changes they have helped to bring about: the woman who said to her screaming three-year-old, ‘IfI hadn’t had a massage I’d knock hell out ofyou’, or the semi-paralysed man who enjoyed teasing his NHS physiotherapist who couldn’t understand how his body had suddenly become so relaxed.

‘One woman came because she felt that she had no control over her life any more,’ says therapist Angela Cummiskey. ‘Her parents were living with her. she was in a relationship with someone who didn‘t have any respect for her and she just felt like she was sinking - she was trapped. Just through working with us over a period ofsay nine months, the changes in the woman were remarkable. She‘s got her act together, she’s told her parents to leave, she’s got rid of her partner, she’s really taken control of her life, she’s got herselfa part-time job, she’s made herselfmore financially independent, she’s much more forward and rooted, she just seems like a totally different person.’

Doctors and social workers have noticed the benefits and are starting to refer patients to the Centre, although word-of-mouth remains the biggest and best advertisement. ‘The effect of the massage doesn’t stop at the door,’ says Judith Robertson, ‘and it doesn’t stop with

the person who‘s being massaged or counselled either. People go out of here with a different attitude to themselves and carry that into their relationship with their children, with their partner, with their social worker, whoever they have to deal with. That’s incredibly powerful. That’s why fathers and mothers end up coming, because they notice something happening.’

The motivation for setting up a Centre for Stress Management in Easterhouse came from Ronald Rieck. founder and director of the College of Holistic Medicine, who recognised a need for people in economically deprived areas to be offered the kind of treatment normally only available to those who can pay privately. There’s nothing special about the kind of stress suffered by people in such areas, but the particular pressures of unemployment, poor housing, low income and high crime-rates undoubtedly take their toll. The reasons for stress are not the concern for the therapists, rather it is the way in which people react to it, a reaction unrelated to class, race or gender. ‘You could be working with anybody,’ says massage therapist Mary O’Connor. ‘It doesn’t matter whether they’re from the moon or from Easterhouse; there and then I’m working with them.’

‘It’s not really about the situation that people are in,’ agrees Judith Robertson, ‘it’s about how they feel about the situation they’re in. One person can come in and feel a complete victim about that situation, somebody else will come in and feel really angry and another person will be really hurt. Everybody will have a different response to what from the outside looks like the same situation.’

massage. The positive thing is that local authorities are recognising that here is a valuable and much-needed service the personal care and one-to-one attention - that the NHS is neither sufficiently resourced nor appropriately trained to provide. ‘People come in feeling they’re really undervalued, really low esteem, they don’t think much of themselves,‘ says Angela Cummiskey. ‘We say, I respect you for what you are right now and you’ve got to learn to respect yourself. And in doing that they begin to see that they do count it doesn’t matter where they live, they count as people. Getting to that stage, they realise that they do have responsibilities. When they take that on board, then they’re in a position to cope much better with what’s going on with their life. They become much more resourceful. That’s when things start to change.’ Centre for Stress Management, 12 Dalilea Drive, Easterhouse, Glasgow, 041 7712201.

A completele list of practitioners is available from The Registrar, The Society of Holistic Practitioners, 4 Craigpark, Dennistoun, G31 2NA.

The Edinburgh Massage Network

The Edinburgh Massage Network is a group of practitioners who have come together to raise

the profile of therapeutic massage in Edinburgh.

All are members of the Society of Holistic Practitioners and are experienced massage therapists aiming to provide easily available treatment of a professional standard.

For an appointment or further information please contact 031-313 3922

(from August 1 st).

The List 17— 3()July 1992 57