We don't move on from grief, we move forward with it as part of us. We are who we are today because they existed and they still exist within us. there will always be times, dates and events that are painful and they will always be painful, no matter how time passes and how long it has been and this is what people misunderstand. Once the first year is over, people expect you to also to forget, to move past the pain of loosing someone, but it just isn't like that. Their presence is in everything you do because it has moulded you into the person you are. Time makes it easier to handle on a daily basis, but it doesn't make it evaporate.
This is a tragic story, told by Ben’s parents. Stories like these have an importance that has, as yet gone unrecognised by the powers that be, it’s only when the families are given a voice and a platform that lessons will be learned, the families hold the key to reducing military suicides.
Ben joined the army in September 2005, he was 16, a boy soldier. Ben started his army career at the Army foundation college in Harrogate and from there went to ITC at Catterick. He was based in Osnabruck Germany for a while before moving back to Catterick. Ben had a promising army career ahead of him and loved being a part of it.
Following tours of Iraq and Afghanistan he was injured with mental scars. For a while he seemed to manage. He was medically discharged in 2014, he got married and seemed settled, but then in 2015 he was involved in a house fire where he nearly lost his life. It was whilst he was in hospital he admitted to having flash backs from his previous tours. We went to his GP and suggested he had PTSD which was agreed however no action was taken. As time went on Ben began to drink more and he struggled to hold a job down, he grew a beard which was unkempt, this was him hiding behind it. He started with mood swings and at times wasn’t the best husband which was out of character as Ben had always been a loving caring person who thought of everyone else before himself.
His mental state continued to deteriorate to the extent that he started to take attempts on his own life. Each time the police placed him on a section 136 and took him to a place of safety ( the local hospital) where he was seen by the mental health team, eventually. Each time they discharged him blaming the problem on alcohol not realising the alcohol was a symptom of his PTSD. On one occasion he walked into the sea, fortunately a taxi driver saw him and phoned the police, the air sea rescue was called and he was again taken to a place of safety on a section 136. He was seen by the mental health team and discharged with a leaflet. The nursing staff felt this was an unsafe discharge. This was the fourth section 136.
2 weeks after this he again walked into the sea. Another 136, he then tried to hang himself in the back of the Police van on the way to hospital. MH services attended 16 hours later when his state of mind was different. I was with him at hospital and begged the mental health team to section him. The police, still in attendance also agreed he should be sectioned, I informed them he was actively telling people he didn’t want to be here.
They didn’t section him but stated they would refer him for urgent psychotherapy. As we found out later the referral was sent to a redundant email address so was never received. There was no help coming. 2 weeks later on the 11/04/19 Ben hung himself. The medical team worked on him for an hour to no avail.
Ben didn’t want any of us to find him so he called a friend from the army to inform him of what he was doing, this friend tried to talk him out of it and called the police. He is traumatised himself still. We have full disclosure pending an Article 2 Inquest, we have listened to the recording of Bens final words from this phone call. “What’s the point” were his last 3 words.
These words will stay with us forever. We cannot explain the pain we feel because unless you have been through this you wouldn’t understand. Just writing this together has triggered us both with tears. We will never get over this and don’t want to. There needs to be a reform within the mental health services, especially towards veterans who carry so much within themselves. If you take the time to listen to the song Iris by the Goo Goo dolls this sums Ben up when he was struggling with PTSD.
Carolyn & Kevin
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