For Simon Turpin, 51, joining the British Military was as much a way of experiencing life as it was following in the family footsteps of those who had served in times of global conflict and peacetime.
Like many he enjoyed his training, but the bomb attack at Woolwich Barracks in the early 80s bought home the reality of soldiering. Basic training now over, he joined his new Regiment in Germany with the Royal Artillery.
Although his service was relatively short, the mid-80s were jam packed. There were various exercises in Europe before the regiment returned to the UK. Simon says: “I’m not a Veteran of some of the more recent conflicts, where the potential for ‘scars’ are more obvious. I’m an ordinary Veteran with a relatively quiet period of service. But, there were some incidents that have caught up over time.”
It was the sad death of a friend in training that contributed, some 15 years after discharge, to the onset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was initially treated for anger management issues but eventually, Simon received the support he needed to help him manage his PTSD.
Life took on an even keel over the years that followed, with a happy home life and plenty of work. However, in 2014, Simon found himself temporarily unemployed, causing him to hit a brick wall mentally, he explains: “I had this hacking cough that wouldn’t go away, and the doctor said to me ‘actually, you’ve got middling depression – and it’s getting worse’.”
For Simon, his depression took the form of losing time, feelings of self-loathing and not caring for his physical appearance. He explains: “The self-loathing comes from moments of clarity where you see what you’re doing and you hate yourself even more.”
It was January 2015 when Simon received an email from Help for Heroes that had a link to the Hidden Wounds service. It was a ‘light bulb moment’ and he knew he needed to make the call to ask for help: “I remember feeling like I had just jumped off a cliff. But, the Hidden Wounds team makes reaching out and asking for help incredibly easy. You just need to have faith and pick up the phone. As soon as I took that first step I felt an overwhelming sense of relief because I was talking to someone who actually understands. It was like stepping into the light again.”
When Simon previously received private treatment for his PTSD, over ten years ago, he used to travel to his sessions by car; the driving took an emotional toll. This time, thanks to the initiative of Help for Heroes, Simon was able to access Hidden Wounds via Skype. This was something that would prove crucial to his recovery: “Skype made it so easy. It meant that I could have my sessions in my study. I was on my own, but I had someone in the room with me. It was positive privacy.
“A really important part of the session for me was the period immediately afterwards. Healing takes time and I was able to sit by myself and just absorb and process what had happened. Having the sessions this way was so beneficial; using Skype helped create a really safe atmosphere.”
An added benefit of receiving treatment for his depression is that his relationship with his kids improved: “When you are depressed you push your family away and your kids are first – you want to protect them from your black moods. Hidden Wounds changed all that as they helped me reengage with my kids in a much more sensitive way than I had before.”
Simon’s treatment through Hidden Wounds gave him the tools he needed to help maintain his mental health and gave him the confidence to “share my secret with my family and friends”. He has routines and weekly reviews – life continues to improve.
Looking to the future, Simon wants to give something back: “If by telling my story I get through to just one person in a similar “dark” place and encourage them to reach out for help that would count as a positive step in my own recovery.
"We lost one friend sadly this year to depression, his loss just adds emphasis to the importance of the work that Hidden Wounds does. Tell your friends and relatives who have served, ‘it is okay to ask for help.’
“Too often the topic is seen as taboo, or it is difficult to discuss the issue of depression when you feel so vulnerable. Have faith, it does work and the Team are very good at dealing with us Veterans.”
We are working alongside other Veteran mental health service providers (such as the NHS, Combat Stress, Big White Wall etc.) to ensure that free and confidential support is available to those in need. If you’re struggling to maintain your mental health, take the first step by getting in touch with us today: www.helpforheroes.org.uk/hidden-wounds.