Life on the line: Mental health in the Army - Pt. 6

After getting in contact with a veteran, I received a 17-page document that detailed his extensive career and prolonged issues with mental health.

This is his story.

Life on the line: Mental health in the Army - Pt. 6

After a week and a half, I was dispatched off for in theatre training to get me up to speed on operating in Ireland, and upon my return I was set to work in the role of armed escort. This work largely involved carrying a pistol in a concealed location about my person and me and my partner would take an old anonymous looking car where we were needed.

I become a courier of people, provisions and papers, wherever and whenever they were needed, sometimes dropping packages off in locations for collection later, or people we had never seen before in odd locations. I felt useful, like I was doing something of genuine purpose.

I spent a happy summer doing these jobs with little consequence across various areas in Ireland for the remainder of the tour. Once we got a feel for the job we used to stop in the Royal Ulster Constabulary stations and go out round the local shopping centres getting people the things they needed to make life more bearable. This often-involved limited quantities of beer as well as items the Navy Army Airforce Institute (NAAFI) shop had ran out of like toiletries, stationary and phone cards. It was exciting, it felt like being a part of some low-level spy network, I guess at times is exactly what it was. In fact, the only tragedy while we were out there was Diana of Wales being killed in a tunnel in Paris. They shipped back home about a dozen of the lads to be pall bearers in Westminster Abbey.

And then before I knew it, it was over. We had to go home.

It should have been a good thing. We had survived, nobody was injured while over there, and we were going home. Honestly though, I'd been having fun doing little runs here and there, and it was being taken away.

Upon getting home we had a couple of weeks leave. Beyond going seeing a friend for a night out, before the week was over I had decided to go back to London. I didn't want to be around my family or those who knew me. The excitement had gone… my purpose had gone. I felt useless, and more and more it occurred to me someone else was out there doing the thing I wanted to be doing. I tried volunteering to go back and doing it some more, but that was denied.

Life lost its interest to me. I didn't want to go running, started eating more. Small things became annoyances. I just felt so low all the time. By the time I came back to work nobody really discussed the tour. I just had to get by figuring things out as I went along. It never occurred to me I was having any kind of a problem, it just felt that's how life was, so I just learned to cope. I don't really recall any discussion from those senior to me, or education about how you might feel when you come home, just abruptly stopped.

With time things improved, but the feelings I experienced would return to me over the years. A few months later I got my head together and moved on. For a young man of 22-23 now earning a reasonable wage living in an SW1 postcode, the world offered everything I could want in abundance: my first mobile phone was the size of a dozen iPhones, the whole of the centre of London within 20-minutes of my door, and plenty of readily welcoming women and pubs. I was now living the dream. I got to go to Belize twice, which is a truly beautiful country, if somewhat reminiscent of the film Predator…

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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