Life on the line: Mental health in the Army - Pt. 8

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. 8

On arrival in Kuwait it was chaotic, with lots of people making land grabs for good places to live and get setup. As Ghurkha Engineers, we had the task of building a fully functional field hospital in the dessert, replete with sanitation, sterile operating theatres and the usual departments any small-town hospital in a war zone would normally have. This meant the Engineers were out by day making a hospital, coming back at after a full day needing their diggers and tractors fixing. Within a few days I was working nights and left to sleep by day so I could keep the vehicles going and ensure the war preparations didn't go too far astray.

In fairness, I was doing quite well in this role, but it wasn't helping my mood that my new wife didn't seem interested in answering the phone. Sometimes I'd later discover she had 'popped round' to see other wives of the lads who were away with me on nights I said I'd try calling. I grew to hate answerphones.

Nights in the Arabian deserts get cold and windy, which means a lot of dust gets blown about. I had nothing to protect me from breathing the dust in and I was started breathing difficulties. Eventually I went sick and got moved to the open bit of the hospital we were still building. I subsequently got diagnosed with pneumonia, and was side-lined to a contagion ward.

After a week of being in there, the officer who was supposed to be looking after our welfare while we were out there came to visit because he'd only found out that day that I was in hospital. Then those of us in the hospital got the message that the invasion was imminent and they were clearing the medical lines so they had free beds if things went bad. We would just be going to Cyprus to get better and sent back when our conditions improved. Two days later I landed in the UK, It was all a story to get rid of us.

I felt let down.

Three days after I got home the invasion began. It was supposed to be my war, my time, the great event in my life. I watched 24-hour news channels non-stop! I lived in front of the TV, craving any information.

I hated myself - fucking pneumonia of all things. I hated myself because I wasn't there to do my bit. Hated myself because I hated myself. My parents came down without an invite. I hated them for that. I didn't want them down, and they weren't welcome to me. I didn't sleep much, because I just wanted to watch the news. Didn't really eat because I didn't deserve it. I wasn't really changing my clothes or cleaning myself up. If I could have had a catheter fitted I would not have cared if that meant I could just absorb more news!

Nobody came to visit from the army, and with everyone round me fussing, I felt so alone. They didn't get it, they'd not been out there, they didn't know.


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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