A Navy veteran who locked himself away for sixteen years due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has finally spent a day out with his wife after seeking mental health support from Help for Heroes. Davy Jay, of Portsmouth, also took part in a photography course through the military charity where he discovered his love of taking images of wildlife. This, together with his access to psychological wellbeing support, gave him the confidence to visit the zoo with his wife, Catherine; the first time they spent a day together outside of their home in 16 years. Davy served in both the Gulf War and Northern Ireland, his main job being to clear mines – “It was a huge mix of emotions, sometimes it was great, sometimes it was scary, but when I came home I had changed.” “I didn’t know who to trust, I was always on guard. I went from patrolling to being home. I felt like my body was at home but my head was in Northern Ireland. I had no downtime.” Davy decided to leave the Navy shortly after his return to try and help change how he was feeling: “I was having flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. I felt very depressed.” Davy found himself bouncing from job to job but couldn’t stay in employment and things started to fall apart. Four years on, Davy found himself unable to cope and had a nervous breakdown: “I tried to end my life, I was locking myself away. Letters were piling up on the door but I couldn’t handle any responsibility.” Shortly after this Davy was diagnosed with PTSD: “I finally felt like I wasn’t alone, but at the same time I was embarrassed and I didn’t want to accept it.” Davy cites that life has been a ‘rollercoaster’ ever since and without his wife by his side he wouldn’t still be here. In 2015 Davy was introduced to Help for Heroes and visited their Recovery Centre Tedworth House in Wiltshire. He was quickly offered Psychological Wellbeing support through the charity’s Hidden Wounds service. “I’ve been given coping strategies and it’s helped so much. I now have a toolbox of relaxation techniques and music that I know will help. We’ve also been working on Dream Rescripting, where I’ll change the end of one of my flashbacks or nightmares to a positive ending.” The charity also offered Davy a space on a photography course, where he learned more about using a DSLR camera, and how to shoot different scenes. Davy’s wife Catherine, has also been receiving support from the charity and has joined the Help for Heroes Band of Sister’s fellowship for loved ones of those that have been injured or become ill as a result of their military service. “Being a part of the fellowship is extremely important to me. Other people in the Band of Sisters understand because they are in similar situations.
I’m Davy’s full-time carer and for a long time I thought I was the only one going through this but I’ve made new friends in similar situations and built amazing bonds.” Catherine says: “Davy and I have always had a really strong relationship, but it’s improved it so much. He’s getting his old self back and photography has given him confidence I’ve not seen in a long time.” Earlier this year, Help for Heroes released data showing that the number of Veterans and family members coming forward for mental health support through the charity’s Hidden Wounds service had more than doubled since 2015. Now, Help for Heroes has launched a new section on its website with a focus on mental health, to offer further understanding and support for those who need it. The new web pages include a selection of blog posts, tips and videos featuring Veterans, family members and staff specialists, with practical explanations and support for Service Personnel, Veterans and their loved ones.
Take a look at the new page here: www.helpforheroes.org.uk/mental-health