Veterans Suicide

All Around Ziggy

Is there a cure……?

Suicide is not a new thing, it is far too common in society. While serving in the British Army I looked upon people who committed suicide as people who wasted their lives. I thought that they were weak and inconsiderate. I mean after all the effect that their ‘selfish’ act had on friends family and so on.

I was highly trained, first and foremost I was a soldier, second to this I was a Combat Medical Technician. My job was to save lives so I was always aghast when people took their own life!

“Oh how life changes”

These thoughts were quickly reconsidered when a friend took his life; while out on a live fire training he joked about keeping one round (bullet) for himself! Not one eyelid was batted after all, at the close of each range exercise you declare you have not retained any…

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Mental Health The New Trend

Will mental health become a fad?

Some reported statistics for you to start of with;

  • 16 million people in the UK have mental health conditions,
  • Three in four mental illnesses start in childhood,
  • Six in Ten people say poor mental health impacts their concentration at work,
  • 70 million work days are lost each year due to poor mental health,
  • £105 Billion is ‘lost’ each year to the UK economy because of poor mental health.

The more and more I hear mental health is being openly spoken about yet I fear that there is still an attitude towards mental health that is turning it into a tick box exercise. Or even worse “it will not happen to me.”

When it comes to dealing with mental health not only is it difficult to admit that you are vulnerable, but when you do people don’t know how to respond to someone admitting their vulnerability.

How can this be changed?

Off the back of attending a conference run by Give an Hour, it clearly indicated by its title that there was a need to change direction. I have no doubt that there is a lot to do in the UK to make this change. One key point is that ‘it will not happen to me.’ Hopefully, this will be the case. It does however depend on how you value your mental health.

Returning to the statistics there are 16 Million people in the UK suffer from mental health, that is from a population of approximately 66 million. Yes that is where the one in four people come from, it is probably better to say that 66 million people suffer from mental health.


Everyone has a degree of mental health. This is the first fact. This can be minor or otherwise, it will however, still be difficult to talk about stress as mental health condition. I urge you to look at the last time you were stressed and now consider how difficult the simple tasks became, as a result of the stress.

Get your head up from the books take a break

The cost of mental health to the economy, each year is around £105 Billion. In the year 2017/18 the NHS plan to spend £11.9 billion. The value of your own mental health is key no matter how many facts or figures your throw in the air you can not put value on your own health.

This leads me onto mental health becoming a fad; it’s a massive concern that the impact on the workplace has led to the perception of a new trend to be part of. Lots of employers are acknowledging mental health as having an impact. It is clear that nobody actually knows how to deal with it. Why? Simply mental health there is no one solution there is no one size fits all.

Imagine this. You walk into work having just had your leg traumatically amputated by a bus on the way in. You say. “Good Morning” to those you see, After the shock of what they have seen your colleagues, ask “are you okay?” you respond. “yes.” Its clear you are not okay but they ask.

Now imagine you walk in you feel rubbish getting out of bed was a task, you have had a sleepless night of flashbacks, you force yourself to go to work. Putting on your face, you turn up to work wishing that there was a bus to have hit you. You say.“good morning”, you get the reciprocated response “Morning.” Your world is falling down around you the pressure on your chest. Your mind is in overdrive yet nobody asks “how are you?”

What am I getting at? One aspect is ITS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY. I find it hard to emphasise the fact that you are not alone no matter how much you feel you are. The reason people don’t ask if you are okay, is not because they don’t care its because they can’t see what is wrong.

Mental health is not a new fad or trend it is finally becoming recognised for the debilitating life changer that it is.

Keep the conversation going. It is not because people don’t care its because they cant see and use a tweet from Karla Stevenson which is video relating to veterans, this quote works for all

“Stick your hand up if you haven’t stuck your hand up do it today.”

Its not a bank robbery its a fact, the help is out there and not just from professionals friends, family and helplines, search Google I wont signpost on this as they expire.


Global Mental Health Summit 2018

Will this help change direction?

Week 41 of 2018 I would say almost the week that the world sat up and took a step together in the right direction.

In the UK the Prime Minister announced the first ‘Suicide Prevention Minister’. The scary bit in England 4500 people take their lives each year. The other numbers I am not putting here because that number itself is unreal.

I am not sure what the introduction of this new minister will do to these figures, but the key is to deal with the cause. This is finally an acknowledgement from UK government that there is a need to address this subject.

This appointment was ready to mark World Mental Health Day. So naturally and obviously its accepted that poor mental health leads to suicide.

This leads me on to the Global Mental Health Summit 2018. This was the second summit arranged by the charities; Change Direction and Give an Hour. The focus of this was ‘Mental Health Culture Change’

Now you are reading this and haven’t heard of these charities that is no surprise both are based in the United States. So, what are they doing here? Well simply put they are working on changing direction and the conversation on mental health. To change the culture surrounding mental health.


Panel including Generals from the UK and Ukranie

This summit had some of the greatest minds in the world. Who were passionate about mental health. The subject areas were diverse, they ranged through Policy, Fashion, Veterans, LGBTQ and Faith. Speakers travelled from all over the world to pass their knowledge.

Three key points that I hope reading will make you think and start a conversation.

  • There are no words for mental health in South Asia, therefore it makes a difficult starting point for the conversation.
  • Until 2013 legislation in the UK still discriminated against Members of Parliament, Jurors and Company Directors.
  • Everyone has Mental Health it should not be binary i.e. with or without, it is.

Thinking about the brain without the mind is brainless, thinking about the mind without the brain is mindless.

I will do more blogs from this but for now enjoy and share. I also urge you to comment on this post and read other blogs

Veterans Badge


Veterans Suicide

Is there a cure……?

Suicide is not a new thing, it is far too common in society. While serving in the British Army I looked upon people who committed suicide as people who wasted their lives. I thought that they were weak and inconsiderate. I mean after all the effect that their ‘selfish’ act had on friends family and so on.

I was highly trained, first and foremost I was a soldier, second to this I was a Combat Medical Technician. My job was to save lives so I was always aghast when people took their own life!

“Oh how life changes”

These thoughts were quickly reconsidered when a friend took his life; while out on a live fire training he joked about keeping one round (bullet) for himself! Not one eyelid was batted after all, at the close of each range exercise you declare you have not retained any munitions. The following day while out training on a weighted march with kit and weapons, the group stopped for a water break. This was his last, he loaded his rifle, turned it on himself and took his life.

The key to the above was that he took his life. He did not commit suicide, killing yourself has not been illegal since 1961. Therefore you can not ‘commit’ suicide. This marked a change in my opinion, why, because before this I was wrong.

“There is nothing wrong with admitting you are wrong as long as you recognise and change.”

Changing the world never happens, changing yourself does so this is where you need to start. Over several years there has been focus on mental health in both military and civilian life. Recently it has been identified that there are no specific records kept by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) relating to Veterans suicide. The stock response is that the coroner holds these records. Well… that would be the case if they identified the person who has taken their life as a veteran, so in short there are not suitable records to draw from.

If we are frank, the United Kingdom has a part to play in supporting the Armed Forces, every year on the 11th November we remember Armistice Day. Everyone (almost) comes together, buys a poppy and shows their support for our Armed Forces. What happens next, well the funds raised are gratefully received and benefit those who are in need.
America is by no way perfect, they do however actively recognise their veterans, this includes simple gratitude like free entry to theme parks and respecting them for what they have done. This point seems laboured however its the little things that matter.
In the UK there are a large number of charities set up to help serving and ex-service personnel, these charities support issues including;

Mental Health
Employment Support
Housing Support
Recovery and providing lifelines.

It’s obvious the support is out there in the United Kingdom although a lot needs to be done. The public gives millions each year to support ‘our troops’. There are lots of amazing people doing crazy things to raise money. There is also a lot of corporate input including the offer of employment programs to help service leavers and financial donations.

This should surely be enough but to date 43 veterans have taken their lives this year, with a majority of these having struggled with the mental health condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is not the only mental health condition that has causative effect.

A number of people doing amazing things and inspiring people, some of these include;

Brian Wood MC
Karla Stevenson of
Tony Hodson of
Iain Henderson trustee
Michael Coates of

One of the key messages is that “its okay not to be okay”, this message isn’t just about smashing the stigma of mental health, it’s about self identifying that things are getting tough. This doesn’t mean going online and self diagnosing yourself as having a mental health condition.

Your first port of call is speaking out to friends, family or health professionals. One thing you need to know is “this is a road to recovery” it’s not a quick fix. If you talk about it then you start the road to recovery.

With the modern roads in the UK you will find lots of ruts and rubbish, you will sometimes hit a roundabout where you won’t know which way to turn; there are signposts out there. Sometimes you will turn down an unmade road, unmade doesn’t mean the path hasn’t been trodden it just means that it can be a bit dustier. No matter which way you turn, what road you take or even if it’s the wrong one it’s important that you stop and ask for directions.

The above may be a daft analogy but it’s as clear and simple as it needs to be. Veterans and service personnel are taking their lives and its frightening. I would say more so because every one of those who pledge allegiance to the Sovereign are in essence willing to die for their country.

None of them want to and taking their own life is not doing this, it is dying because the country failed them. Its time to change this. I decided to write this and not go into the facts and figures. It is clear that the world, the government need to be doing something. The issue is they are not doing as much as they could. Facts and figures will not redress the balance. It is too late for so many but its down to us, we can change the future.

Lots of people are putting the government to task if you look there are many petitions, sign these but please don’t think that is it I’ve done my bit, I’ve ticked the box. There are 2.5 million veterans in the UK as of 2016, this was down 60,000 from 2015. The most recent statistics will be published in 2019!

Ultimately there is no cure, for years people have taken their own lives so the responsibility lies on us to give them the support, the signposts, the sense of purpose.
I write this in the knowledge that I have hit rock bottom and considered suicide, but I came through. Why? Because I looked up from the rocks and realised there was always a hand to help me up, find yours talk.

I urge you to look at the links above and if you need help or support please use the helplines provided by Combat Stress.
The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Veterans and their families can call 0800 138 1619.
Serving personnel and their families can call 0800 323 4444.
You can also text on 07537 404719 and email Standard charges may apply for texts, please check with your provider
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Photo by Negative Space on


The Sky’s the limit

Or is it……?

Its a crisp autumn morning, the bright yellow light in the clear blue sky is glowing and glinting off of every shard of glass. Unlike Alex Guandino my destination was known. Heathrow Airport was my next stop.

A380 cockpit is pretty high up !

First challenge was to leave the ever faithful assistance dog Ziggy behind, why ? The first consideration was he going to be alone? That was easily answered, the second was what contingencies could I put in place to deal with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have developed many coping strategies over the years to manage in situations like this so I reverted to these.
Enough babble, I was attending the British Airways (BA) Flight Simulator organised through Help For Heroes. 40 Veterans from every service were present and given this amazing opportunity to fly in a flight simulator.

This was not sitting in front of a computer screen with your joystick this was a multimillion pound system that mirrored everything in the cockpit of the variants of aircraft used by BA. It wasn’t only this I also had the opportunity to see the amazing Heathrow Fire Service in action (training), amongst the other equipment used to keep the airport working.

Heathrow Fire Service equipment display

This sounds fun throw into the mix PTSD and a heart rate average of 100bpm it turns something enjoyable into a draining but awesome experience. Not taking away from the amazing staff of BA and the Heathrow Fire Service along with the staff of Help For Heroes, it was the company of like minded Veterans and Service Personnel who were experiencing similar experiences.
Now entering the £10 Million simulator pod set up to replicate a Boeing 747, a fully immersive experience with realistic principles of flight just without the wings! Sitting in this pod gave me focus as I strapped into the harness I focused on the ‘outside’ world and the equipment in the cockpit . Clearance was given throttle up flaps adjusted and brakes released. Pulling up the nose of the plane leaving the runway, I was now in flight heading up to 3000 feet retracting the gears. I felt the amazing sense of relief the anxiety and hypervigilance drained from my PTSD bug and began to feed the new bug of flight. Not for a long time had I felt so ‘normal’ in a frankly abnormal situation.

Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine

Heathrow Fire Service Training

After landing and taking off a number of times, the experience came to a close. The day ended and the drive home. What an amazing experience one I am grateful for its showed me that I could do things I had lost the confidence to do.

Flight Simulator Pod

It showed me that I could do things outside of my comfort zone but by working hard talking to people and being open and honest that I have PTSD and that its horrendous at times I can and I will continue to work through this and offer the peer support to others to help them.

As a final note this one day took two days out of me it wasn’t easier this was one day (6 hours it wiped me out for two, I am by far match fit but I am heading in the right direction.

As an extra bonus I met the inspirational Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden, who has done many amazing things in his life and supports our troops he also has a autobiography out called:

‘ What does this button do’

Richard and Bruce Dickinson

Thanks for not being bored, no matter what you think the sky is not the limit look beyond the limit and work towards it. You can do it I can do it.

R+ Z