As the phone rings with another veteran in crisis, I quickly jot down some information name, age, service status, unit, regiment etc, you know, the usual stuff…
After a few minutes of brief chat it is clear and apparent that this veteran is in crisis, he tells me that he has been granted one phone call from a police station. Whilst on the phone, I ask if I can speak with the officer in charge which is granted.
It is agreed by the police and the veteran that I can attend the police station to help support the best I can.
I am up out of bed, dressed and in the car within 15 mins. During the drive, I continue to make calls to responders.
I arrive at the police station and book into the main reception desk manned by civilian staff, give my name and whom I have come to see, I am asked to take a seat and someone would attend to me soon . The clock now starts to tick, minutes turns into hours, before I am taken to an interview room to see the veteran in crisis, always accompanied by an officer.
As I enter the room, I see fear in this lads face. I will call this lad veteran M .
Veteran M is clearly shaken and in distress, tears running down his face, I move across for the hand shake and a little brotherhood hug. You all know what this is. I whisper in his ear “I have your back”. I ask the officer if I can have a chat alone, some custody suites allow this, some don’t, this is always depending on the nature of arrest, and nature of the alleged offence .
On this occasion being alone with veteran M was not granted. We have a little chat about how he became arrested. Half hour passes and we are asked to bring our conversation to an end, and within a split second veteran M has his neck muscles bursting from his neck, his eyes bulging and sweat pouring from his brow.
The fear is tearing his chest apart, I remain calm, and continue to talk, giving reassurance, that help and support is here and that I would be back to see him in the morning as he is lead away back to his cell.
I gather further information from veteran M’s friends and family. I arrive at his home address, I knock on the door and give my name. A wife, a partner or a girl friend stands on the door step with the look of horror on her face. A young boy of school age stands behind his mum, tears rolling down his face his voice is low as he asked “is my dad ok?” I hesitate to give him the words he was looking for.
As the family members show me into the main room I take a seat. I start to explain the circumstances of what is currently going on with the police.
Stories are told of veteran M’s past. Stories of happy times and stories of sad, many from the theatre of war. Weddings, funerals, christenings all in the mix.
Veteran M’s young son tells how he has had some great times with his dad, times they went fishing, walking and bike riding. All part of the normal kind of stuff dads do with their sons .
I ask veteran M’s son how he was feeling right now, he tries his best to hold back his tears as he brakes into a long rush conversation hardly taking time to stop for breath. He tells me my dad is hurting, my dad has pain, his head is sore.
“Why will no one help him? Yesterday I heard him crying, it seemed to go on for hours, I remember him falling asleep, mum was sleeping on the sofa with the dog beside her, it was nearly day light I heard dad screaming, shouting out. I know something is wrong but I can’t help him. Dad once told me he isn’t a man, he isn’t a soldier. He has said he only see darkness wherever he goes, I don’t understand what he means.”
I ask veteran M’s partner how long has he been suffering? How long has his behaviour been like this? Her reply… ” It’s been many many years, we were fine when we first met, it was when he came back from his tour I noticed he had changed, he didn’t talk much, didn’t want to go out and wouldn’t even visit his own mum.”
Over the last six years I have learned, when I go out to these veterans it is a carbon copy in most cases.
The web of ending a life, the effects it has on many is massive. Wive’s, partners, girlfriends, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nans, and grandads. The torment is hard and real, the pain and suffering is written all over the face of each and every family member.
As I sit and listen, further hurt is poring out, even the dog is sensing something isn’t right.
Hours have passed since I arrived, many times the kettle has been boiled, a little calm has been brought to the table and a path has been laid, the way forward is in sight.
I agree with veteran M’s wife/partner, that I will visit him in custody again, with a little smile, I see she is happy, something positive to look forward to.
Everyday is very much the same, I visit, we talk, I make phone calls, sometimes just when you’re thinking you’re winning, another door is slammed shut on veteran M. From GP to MHCT to local council, each should play a part in supporting, each should work side by side.
In meetings of various sorts, plans are often laid down, councillors and therapists seek to support, however as the passage of time moves on, communication breaks down and so the cycle continues.
Frustration from errors within, is the hardest to deal with. I and many others understand how it should work, I and many others seek the same aim and this is to give complete help and support for each and everyone of our veterans and all their families.
Only then can we say we are winning the fight against ending of life !
No more hurt, no more pain, no more suffering, no more abuse ……..
It simply must stop