10 November 2015

A time to remember

Dbeath"This time of year brings to mind for all of us the cost of war and conflict. As someone who served in the British Infantry, I saw at first hand the damage to soldier's lives and to their families of being in conflict situations and suffering loss. There can be many types of loss. I remember having to break the news to a mother as duty officer, that her son had been killed not on operations, but as a result of an accident. The loss to her was immeasurable and will remain with her for the rest of her life. Her shock and distress will remain with me for the rest of mine. Bereaved families need our help.

I also have vivid memories of one shooting incident in Ireland when two of my soldiers were shot whilst protecting school children. One nearly died but was saved by a quick thinking corporal friend who stopped the bleeding. He lost his leg, but fortunately with help from the British Legion and a Regimental charity, lives and works on with his family. This soldier's scars are very obvious, but others have scars which are not so visible to us. Another of my soldiers was shot in the back and although recovered to serve on, the physical injuries mean he now suffers from chronic conditions at an age when most of us would be fit and well. He needs our support too.

As staff working in a Mental Health Trust, we are also aware of the other kinds of internal damage, which could be seen as a loss of some kind. There is loss of memory, loss of confidence leading to depressions, addictions and phobias and a loss of mental ability. Soldiers can experience post-traumatic stress, which can involve recurring nightmares and irrational fears. I myself suffered mild PTSD, but with help from friends and organisations like the British Legion, came out of it.

Now I make myself available throughout Somerset and Wiltshire as a British Legion caseworker. I go into the homes of ex-servicemen and their dependents to help them, usually long after their period of service. I recently saw a man who had been in Burma fighting the Japanese with the "Forgotten Army" and experienced terrible conditions, all he needed were some adaptions in the house, which could not be provided by Social Services to allow him to get around and be helped by his family. A small amount of money was soon made available and his life has been enhanced.

So although Remembrance Day has passed, I encourage all of us who understand loss and who have suffered mentally and physically, to support Service Charities, so we can help service men and women to get themselves back to normal and live productive lives."

Information on how AWP can help you with Post Traumatic Stress can be found here.

Information on the South West Veterans' Mental Health Service can be found here.

If you have a story or interesting perspective on mental health care and related issues that you'd like us to consider for publication, why not drop us a line at awp.communications@nhs.net

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