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‘I didn’t want to say that I was broken and that I badly needed help, but I couldn’t go on without support. It turned out that the mental health support team at WWTW were the ones that gave me the help that I needed, and they were phenomenal. Carolyn at Head Start was incredible and so supportive. I always knew that if I ever needed her, she was at the end of the phone and ready to speak to me.’
Martin was proud to be the first person in his family to join the Army. He was 17 when he joined the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in 2001.
2 years later, in 2003, Martin was deployed to Iraq. At first, he had a combat role but when the war ended, his role changed, and he was required to help manage the peace-keeping process. Based in Basra, he was tasked with maintaining law and order. One fateful encounter with a group of looters, turned to tragedy when a young Iraqi man lost his life.
When Martin returned from Iraq, he was sent directly to Northern Ireland on tour. Meanwhile, he and three other colleagues were charged with manslaughter and received a General’s Court Martial. Martin was 19 years old at the time.
The court case that followed, lasted for 3 and a half long years. Martin was the focus of a lot of publicity, and the stress on him and his family was enormous. Not only did his mental health suffer but also his home life and he was compelled to stay away from home, near to the court in Colchester. In 2006, Martin was unreservedly cleared of all the charges against him but by this time his military career was over.
In the years that followed, Martin started to suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD and he would use alcohol and drugs to ‘manage’ his symptoms. He was withdrawn and angry and his marriage to his wife, Kerry, faltered as he was unable to cope with family life. Ultimately, in 2015, Martin walked out and left the family home but his mental health continued to deteriorate and eventually, he was hospitalised.
Up until this point, Martin had held down a job as an HGV driver. However, the medication he was prescribed in hospital made it impossible for him to concentrate and function properly and he was unable to work. With the help of his close family, he visited a different GP, who knew his history and who understood that he was suffering. The GP prescribed new, improved medication and Martin began to stabilise and improve.
In 2018, he moved back into the family home with Kerry and their two children. He was referred to WWTW’s Mental Health Programme (Head Start) and introduced to their Clinical Lead, Carolyn.
‘Being in the Army was the best time of my life but after the incident in Iraq and the court case that followed, I struggled for a long time. I was lucky, my family, and my wife, supported me through it all and WWTW helped me to find ways to manage my trauma. Now, at long last, I’m in a much better, stronger and happier place.’
Martin received talking therapy and learned grounding techniques with his Head Start therapist. He also received 6 sessions of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). In 2019, he had progressed so well that Carolyn offered him an opportunity of a lifetime - for himself and Kerry to travel to Boston, USA for an intensive clinical programme. It was an opportunity for them both to talk and share their experiences with other veterans and their partners.
Kerry had experienced sustained and debilitating anxiety as she tried to support Martin and look after their children. They both benefitted enormously from the support and empathy that they encountered in the United States. It was a positive experience and they made long-term bonds with the people that they met.
After returning to the UK, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and Martin struggled through lockdown. He had to put his life back on hold and he was frustrated to be stuck inside the house. However, he had a lifeline - he always knew that Carolyn was at the end of the phone if he needed her support.
As lockdown eased, Martin bounced back. He applied for a job with Warley Carriers and has recently returned to work as an HGV driver. His family life is happy once again and he is now ready to make plans for the future.
‘Working makes me feel good - I have a new purpose in life and a reason to get up. My brain is ticking again, and my mind is always active.’