“I’ve got an injury you just can’t see.”

“I’ve got an injury you just can’t see.”

A £1 million Help for Heroes grant to Combat Stress has meant another veteran has got the help he needed to cope with his PTSD.

The one-year grant* is being used to fund part of the cost of operating Combat Stress’ UK-wide network of Community Teams which really helped the PTSD symptoms of Stuart (43), who lives in Amesbury.

Stuart fulfilled his childhood dream of being a soldier when he joined the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers aged 16. He served for almost 25 years and his tours took him all over the world, including to Germany, Canada, Kosovo, France, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: “Afghanistan was my last tour and it was when I came back home in 2009 that things were different. I had a very short fuse, I was hyper-vigilant, I was having nightmares and I was drinking. Close friends and family used to say I was a different person when I came home from that tour – they could see the distress in my eyes. “

In 2010 he was diagnosed with PTSD, and although he served until 2015, he was medically un-deployable.

“When I left the Army in April 2015, I started a new job but shortly afterwards my marriage broke up and I became homeless. I spent three months living with a mate. I’d received treatment for my PTSD whilst I was serving but the change in my circumstances was too much and I nosedived, with my symptoms getting worse.”

On his first contact with Help for Heroes, Stuart said: “My friend worked in the military and she suggested I contact Help for Heroes at Tedworth House.  As soon as I did, the weight was lifted, I felt like the burden had been lifted.”

The team at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Tedworth House in Wiltshire, put Stuart in touch with Combat Stress. After a clinical assessment by a member of the local Community Team, Stuart attended an outpatient appointment with one of the charity’s psychiatrists. He was then offered the opportunity to attend the community-based occupational therapy workshops to help his PTSD symptoms.

Stuart has also attended the monthly support group that the Combat Stress community team run at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Tedworth House.  This informal meeting is a chance for veterans to have one to one sessions with the community psychiatric nurse or occupational therapist. It is also an opportunity for veterans to find out more about the other types of support available – for example, the Help for Heroes fellowship network.

“I know my PTSD will always be there and I’m learning to cope with it. I have good days and bad days – my partner calls them a ‘sad day’ and when they happen it’s a struggle. But I try and stay upbeat – the treatment I’ve had helps me to do this. 

“You’re a bigger man if you ask for help than pretending you don’t need it. I’ve got an injury you just can’t see.   

“I’ve lost two friends to PTSD and I can’t bear the thought of anyone else taking their own life because of it.  A simple phone call can prevent it.” 

Vanessa Moulton, Help for Heroes Head of Psychological Wellbeing, said: “Help for Heroes are delighted to be helping individuals like Stuart to access the support they need, by helping to part fund the community service delivered by Combat Stress. Stuart’s story also shows the value of organisations collaborating to help rebuild lives.”

There are 14 regional Combat Stress Community Teams, providing veterans with access to specialist help and support for their mental health conditions. Each team is now made up of a community psychiatric nurse and an occupational therapist.

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