Army Veteran Hugh
In his own words.
“I came to the Army a bit later in life, as I joined the Royal Irish Regiment Reserves when I was 24. I thought I’d found my calling and in total I was with the Army for 10 years.
“During that time I completely threw myself into Army life and put my hand up for everything; I did a lot of training in the Brecon Beacons and I served in Kenya amongst other places. After three years in the Reserves I went full time and was deployed to Afghanistan, serving in a few locations over there.
“I never really talked about what happened in Afghanistan – people asked me about it and I’d say it was brilliant and just talked about the ‘glamorous” bits. But deep down I was hiding that I’d lost my mate there, I’d seen people injured and I wasn’t telling anyone about that. That was how I dealt with it; I was blagging it all the time by pretending I was ok. But I wasn’t ok – I suffered from sleeplessness, anger and hypervigilance. I carried a lot of guilt - why had I survived when others I was there with hadn’t?
“In 2015 I had a mental breakdown. I was cleaning my service pistol and put it to my head, thinking I could end it all. I shrugged it off and called my unit but they didn’t really offer much practical support, instead they removed my pistol and sent me back home on medical leave.
“I received help over the next six years, including a week-long residential programme with other veterans. That was the main thing that helped me, as it showed me that I’m not alone. I met so many other squaddies who’d had similar experiences and it made me realise it was ok to need help. I wasn’t physically lonely, but I’d experienced mental loneliness with my PTSD and now here were other people like me who had lived through the same thing.
“Combat Stress has given me back things that I thought had been taken away from me - I can talk to my wife about my mental health now, whereas before I didn’t say a word. I also have stability in my life - I’ve gone from refusing to believe I need help, to having regular appointments to help me.