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PTSD, Depression & Mental Health.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 8:39am
Soldier stricken with PTSD after examining hundreds of mutilated bodies has been 'abandoned by Army'

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army but he is now unable to work after falling ill from the stress of witnessing horrific post mortems

BySean Rayment,
21:04, 9 SEP 2017
Updated21:18, 9 SEP 2017

Former Royal Military Police forensic officer Gary said he went home 'smelling of death'

A soldier stricken by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after examining the mutilated bodies of hundreds of comrades today tells how the Ministry of Defence has abandoned him.

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army. But after falling ill from the stress of witnessing post mortems for four years, he is now unable to work.

He and his family survive on state benefits and a measly Army pension of just £36 a week while they have run up debts of more than £30,000.

The war veteran, who has considered suicide, told the Sunday People : “After serving Queen and country this is not how I expected my life to be.

"I thought if anything happened to me, the Army would look after me. I could not have been more wrong.”

Gary received just £6,000 in compensation for his mental scars. The worst physical injuries pay up to £570,000.

He said: “Veterans who suffer from PTSD are just as much part of the war wounded community as those who sustained physical injuries on the battlefield.

"But the compensation is capped at £6,000 for PTSD no matter how bad.

“If I’d suffered from physical injuries which prevented me from working, my pension and compensation would be far greater and I wouldn’t be in debt.

“The MoD doesn’t seem to understand that a mental wound can be just as debilitating as a physical one.

"It’s hard enough dealing with a mental condition which can drive you to suicide, without being forced to live in poverty.”

Gary, 48, was a Royal Military Police corporal responsible for repatriating the bodies of soldiers from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and attending their post mortems in the UK.

Between 2003 and 2006 he “processed” several hundred bodies, often forced to help pathologists search bodies for bullets and shrapnel.

Gary said: “Part of the job was to examine the bodies to see how they died.

“I had to follow bullet tracks through bodies and remove shrapnel. The wounds were terrible and the memories of often mutilated bodies have haunted me ever since.

"I’ve suffered constant nightmares and flashbacks. It has been a living hell.

“My only comfort is knowing that, by examining how the soldiers were killed, I could write reports to make improvements to body armour.

“Those would have saved the lives of other soldiers, so I take some comfort that those guys didn't die in vain”.

Special Forces hero who led secret mission to blow up Saddam Hussein's communications network dies from 'human Mad Cow Disease'

When Gary left the Army he kept working in forensic science. After years of suffering in silence, he was eventually diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 and given his puny compensation.

"But his worsening mental state meant he was unable to continue in his field and was awarded £36-a-week disability pension.

Today he and wife Lyla survive on £704 Unemployment and Support Allowance and £400 Housing Benefit.

The couple also rely on financial help from their two children Finley, 24, and Tatty, 19. After £600 rent, Gary and Lyla survive on about £600 a month.

They spend £120 of that on food, £125 on gas and electricity and £100 on car tax and fuel.

Any money left goes towards paying off £2,000 in legal fees from their MoD battle and thousands owed to family and friends.

Lyla, 50, who has just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, said: “We survive by counting every penny.

“We have a very understanding landlord so if we are late with the rent, he doesn’t fuss and the butcher allows us credit, else it would be impossible.

“Gary gave everything for his country and received little in return. It’s not the way veterans should be treated.”

In his last week in the Army, Gary had to deal with 22 dead soldiers, some of whom perished in the notorious RAF Nimrod air disaster of 2006.

The aircraft had been on a routine reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan when a fire broke out on board after inflight refuelling. Every member of the 14-man crew was killed.

An inquiry into the disaster, the greatest single loss of life in the entire war, found the fire had been caused by a series of maintenance blunders.

Gary, who began Army life in the Grenadiers, added: “That was one of the worst weeks in the job. We were dealing with multiple deaths.

“You would go home at the end of the day and you could still smell death.”

He said the MoD knew the nature of the work was having an impact on his team’s mental health. His boss had already developed PTSD doing the same work as Gary but he claims no counselling was offered.

Gary, who met Prince Charles in the course of his work, added: “The MoD have been useless. I had no counselling when I was involved in the repatriation of the dead, even though the MoD knew it was traumatic.

"My boss left because he could not cope, so they knew the work was damaging us.

“There were periods when dead soldiers were arriving every day, sometimes several times a day.”

He added: “The years since I was diagnosed have been very difficult and I have contemplated taking my own life on several occasions.

“If I had physical injuries I’m sure I would have been treated better. The MoD says that it looks after veterans with PTSD but that’s simply not true.”

Three months after he left the Army Gary’s sister, Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliot, was killed by a bomb in southern Iraq. Again Gary was offered no advice or counselling.

But despite his challenges, Gary is determined to make his life a success.

He has enrolled in a chemistry university course and hopes to return to forensics.

He said: “My PTSD means I will never be able to work at a crime scene but I hope one day I will be able to do lab work.”






































































Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:34am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 9:30am

'I walked out covered in a young girl's blood': one soldier's struggle with PTSD, and the Ministry of Defence


'They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing.'
Dean Upson Former Corporal in 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) |
Sunday 21 August 2016 23:00 BST|

The Independent Online

          
Dean Upson started suffering PTSD while serving with a medical emergency reaction team in Afghanistan

They handed her to me, a young girl, four or five maybe, to hold in my arms.

She was a mess, a lot of abdominal injuries – one casualty among many hit by a suicide bomb in an Afghan market place.

She didn’t make a sound, just tucked her arms into my body armour and held on, like a limpet.

I was a non-believer in PTSD - but the Marines taught me better

I talked to her, made funny noises, did whatever I could to reassure her, although I’m sure she didn’t understand a word. And when we landed at Camp Bastion, because I had carried her back like this, I went into the trauma room with her.

I don’t know how many injured local nationals there were, but walking into that room was like walking into an abattoir.

She wouldn’t let go of me. They had to pop my body armour off before they could prise her off.

I walked out of there covered in a young girl’s blood.

Someone once explained to me that PTSD is like a pint glass slowly being filled.

I had been on TELIC I, the invasion of Iraq. It was war. It was what you expected: “We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, let’s go.”

But the pint glass gets a little fuller.

I went to Afghanistan, 2006, Helmand – very kinetic, a stand-up fight, firing your weapon, coming under fire. It is addictive, very addictive, exhilarating.

But the pint glass is filling up the whole time.

And in late 2008, on my second Afghan tour, the pint glass was spilling over.

I was attached to a MERT (Medical emergency reaction team), as part of an explosive ordnance disposal unit, in case IED [improvised explosive device] or mine clearance was needed when the helicopter got to the casualty. No such clearance work was ever needed. Instead, I was in the Chinook, doing whatever I could to help the miracle workers, the incredible medical guys: holding hands, pushing fluids into people. Plugging holes.
I remember a young female American soldier. She was so badly burned that we only knew she was a woman when we noticed she was wearing a bra. Sometimes, you’d go out on six or seven jobs in a single day.

Two days before I left for Christmas R&R [rest and recuperation], we had a young Commando with a gunshot wound to the head. Incredibly, when we got to him, he was still alive. We dropped him off at Kandahar, but when we landed at Bastion, we were informed he had died. I walked into my tent covered head to toe in blood, slumped in my chair, and wept.

That had been my staff sergeant’s first medical evacuation job. He asked if they were all that bad. I told him that was one of the better ones. But it was the one that finished me.

The PTSD started manifesting itself while I was still on my tour. I told no one. I didn’t want to be the lunatic in the troop. Weakness in the forces, you don’t do it. And as an old-style NCO [non-commissioned officer], a leader, you can’t do it. You just try to crack on as best you can. Until you are in complete crisis.

Which is why, five to 10 years from now, there’s going to be a tidal wave of guys like me, coming forward saying they are suffering.

And there are more psychological injuries than anything else. Hundreds of guys were made amputees in Afghanistan – a large number – but how many guys are out there with psychological injuries? The psychological injuries are the worst. They say that more Falklands veterans killed themselves than guys who died in combat.

If you’ve had your leg blown off, you can get a prosthetic leg. If you have got PTSD, what can they do about your head?

Back in England, I was all over the place: nightmares, flashbacks, crying like a little girl with a scraped knee.

I made two attempts on my life in 2009. I’ve made three suicide attempts altogether. You don't sleep, you feel hopeless, reliving stuff you don’t want to think about. You want it to stop. Suicide is something I think about daily.

I was put on sick leave, but in June 2011 I was medically discharged.

I’m 36 now. I’d gone into the recruiting office when I was 17 and a half, on a lunch break from working as a builder’s labourer. My dad had done it, my granddad had done it. I thought I’d give it a go – even if I really wanted to be an archaeologist.

I loved it. You know what? You get to do a lot of good. In Kosovo I helped build and run a refugee camp for thousands of refugees.

And it’s the guys around you, the camaraderie, that makes the British Army the best in the world. No matter how bad things are, they’ll always crack a joke. And last week, when they found out I was having a wobble – bad flashbacks – the guys from my old unit were phoning me up, from Malawi one of them. The support they have offered me has been amazing.

But the senior officers, I’ve known some who can reel off the names of those who got physical injuries, but haven’t got a clue who the guys with PTSD are.

And the politicians … Yes, every soldier signs on that dotted line wanting to go to war, to fight the bad guys and feel what war is like, whatever they may say to the contrary. But the politicians who order them to fight, they’ve no real grasp of the mental strain involved. And how many of their sons and daughters do you see going to war?

It’s the same with society at large. They’ll see the guy on crutches, the guy in a wheelchair and understand. But then they’ll look at you and say “What’s wrong with him? He looks fine.” If they can’t see it, they’re not interested.

Nor is anyone involved with Armed Forces compensation. The visible injuries that they can’t argue with, the lost limbs, they will pay for straight away. But the non-visible injuries, they don’t want to give you a thing. They will fight and question everything. They will even try everything they can to discharge you before you get your diagnosis of PTSD.

I’ve known guys discharged on the grounds of “personality defect” or “burn out”. Because they didn’t get their diagnosis of PTSD before they were discharged, they got nothing. My initial compensation payment was £3,000 – a joke. With that and a medical discharge payment based on my length of service I was left with £30,000.

£30,000. After 14 years’ service, tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and an entire life messed up by PTSD. What was I supposed to do? It wasn’t as if I could go into full-time employment in another job in my state. I tried. I lasted three months.

I would phone the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme in tears, explaining my situation, saying “Look, I’ve tried to kill myself.” I was just told: “We’ll pass it on.”

They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing. You have to fight for everything. Which I did. I eventually got the maximum award – more than £160,000. But it took four years, and the involvement of lawyers.

Yes, at least I have my money now. But I would rather have my career and, above all, my health. So why am I telling you all this, why am I reliving everything? Because I want people to know this stuff is happening.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme had awarded more than £600m since 2005 and that service personnel were encouraged to submit claims so they could be properly considered: “We are absolutely committed to the mental health of our armed forces and this increase in successful claims shows our campaigns are encouraging those who need help to come forward to get the compensation they deserve.”

The young Afghan girl survived.

   
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Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:40am
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