ARMY VETERAN Steve
In his own words.
“I joined the Army in 1989 aged 16. I’d grown up with my Dad serving in the Airforce and I’d always known I wanted to go into the services. I decided on the Army – it just sounded good.
“In total I served for over 23 years, with tours including the first Gulf War in 1990 when I was just 18, several tours to Bosnia in the mid-1990s, and then tours to Iraq and Afghanistan just before I left in 2012.
“And then when the COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020, my aggression and anger went to a whole new level. It all came to a head in summer 2020. I was angry, I was having flashbacks in the day as well as nightmares and I started drinking to try to help me sleep.
“Since I’d left the Army not a year had gone by without a former colleague taking their own life. That really began to play on me and I think was why my mental health became so much worse. My Dad also died in 2018 and I think the loss of the military banter we used to have played a part in the decline of my mental health as well.
“I googled veterans’ charities and Combat Stress stood out to me. I wrote down the Helpline number but I left it a few days before I called as I realised I was going to have to take a big step and admit I needed help.
“I had heard of PTSD – in fact I knew a few people with it, but I never thought that was me.
“After calling the Helpline and starting to talk to Combat Stress, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of many different incidents during my time in the Army.
“I began treatment to get off the booze, working with Lynn, one of the Combat Stress specialist substance misuse nurses. Over four months between October 2020 and January 2021, Lynn helped me to stop drinking to excess so that I could move onto treatment for my mental health issues. Today I have the odd beer but it’s nothing more than that.
“In spring 2021, I began online group therapy with Combat Stress. There were about eight sessions with a small group. I committed to everything that was suggested and I learnt some good techniques and tools to manage my anger – for example, I have adapted the grounding technique to a lot of scenarios in order to calm myself down and see things clearly.
“And then towards the end of summer 2021, I began some weekly online one-to-one therapy sessions for five months. These were tailored to my specific needs and I found them so useful.
“I’d say to any veteran I’d 100% recommend going to Combat Stress.”