Written by Samantha Lade, DonateToday

'I got so low I couldn't face things': But now, life couldn't be more different for Army veteran William, thanks to help from Combat Stress

'I got so low I couldn't face things': But now, life couldn't be more different for Army veteran William, thanks to help from Combat Stress

Written by Samantha Lade for DonateToday

PUBLISHED: 16:27, 18th Jan 2018 | UPDATED: 15:04, 26th Jan 2018

Combat Stress are helping veterans like William (pictured) to restore self-confidence and self-worth

After serving in the Army, settling back into regular 'civvy' life in Scotland was tough for William. Spending years experiencing severe mood changes and anxiety, things came to a head in 2012. But thankfully, the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, Combat Stress, has given William the tools and techniques to enjoy a fresh look on life.

Years of Service

After signing up in 1971, William gave nine years of service to the British Army.

During that time, he completed two years in Singapore, as well as three tours of Northern Ireland. It was during the tours in Northern Ireland that William lost two close friends – as well as experiencing several other traumatic incidents.

‘My mood changes were tremendous,’ says William of the years following his return. ‘I’d be OK one moment and then really angry or down the next.’

William got a job with the Post Office and started a family with his new wife, and all seemed OK at the time – but things weren’t quite right, something William can see much more clearly today when looking back.

On average it takes 12 years from leaving the army for a veteran to seek help for mental health problems

- Combat Stress

Coming to a Head

William told himself at the time he just had to get back into life on ‘civvy street’. It wasn't until many years later when his mental health issues really came to a head.

‘It was after a trip back to Northern Ireland in 2012 to attend a memorial service in Belfast that things really changed for me,’ recalls William.

William (pictured) served in the British Army for nine years

'I started having nightmares and flashbacks,' continues William. 'Things got so bad I tried to take my own life. I got so low that I couldn't face things. I thought that was my only way out.'

It was his wife’s boss at the Ministry of Defence who gave her the contact details for veteran's mental health charity Combat Stress.

Reaching out for help was a tough step for William to take. He explains: ‘It took three months to call – I kept on picking the phone up and putting it down. But eventually, I called.’

"Things got so bad that I tried to take my own life. I thought that was my only way out."

- William

A Change for the Better

It was at Hollybush House, the Combat Stress treatment centre in Scotland, where William was finally able to get the help he needed.

He says that things were noticeably better for a number of years – but then last year the flashbacks returned and his nightmares started to get worse. 

‘Again, Combat Stress was there to help me. I attended a six-week residential post-traumatic stress disorder intensive treatment programme in June 2017 and that’s helped a great deal.'

‘I used to be so anxious if I couldn’t see the door when I was sitting in a restaurant – I always wanted to sit with my back against the wall,' he says. 'This made going out to eat very stressful for me and my wife – but now I know how to handle it.’

William remains grateful to the charity for helping him to tackle his past and prepare for his future.

‘I’ve got a three-year old grandson now and I want to be around to see him grow up,' he finishes. 'The tools and techniques I’ve learnt at Combat Stress are helping me to do that.’