Ron is retired and currently studying Natural Science with the Open University. He’s 75 years old and lives in Porthcawl.
He’s also an NCMH Research Champion, helping to spread the word about our research. This is his story:
During my time in a high powered position in an international company, I was under a lot of stress.
The company I worked for before retiring involved a lot of travelling, with early morning starts to catch flights around the Middle East and Sudan and sometimes traveling overnight.
The process of getting through customs and immigration was often lengthy and I regularly undertook long journeys by car on arrival to reach remote locations.
These journeys were stressful and I often struggled to get to sleep when staying in remote hotels and to acclimatise to different time zones and customs.
This stress culminated in a nervous breakdown in 2014 for which I was medevac’d back home to the UK.
After receiving treatment, the company offered me the opportunity to take three months of sick leave in the UK before returning to work.
Hospistilisation and diagnosis
I decided that it was time for me to retire.
The company arranged for my medical escort back to the UK where, as I am a military veteran, I was assessed by a psychiatrist.
I was asked if would I be prepared to go into hospital so that I could be checked over and any follow-up care could be delivered if required.
During my first assessment, I was asked what injections and any other drugs I had taken while in the military.
When I gave the answers, the psychiatrist said that the majority of military veterans receiving treatment had given the same answers.
While first in the hospital, I was asked to give a full list of injuries and where I had gotten them; my list included a fractured skull and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
The initial diagnosis was that I was suffering from Post-Traumtic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Further tests indicated that I was also suffering from Bipolar Disorder, possibly brought on by stress and that I may have encephalomalacia due to the brain injury from a fractured skull.
I am now on mood stabilising pills that I will have to take for the rest of my life.
Starting with the National Centre for Mental Health
Once I was out of the hospital and back home, I was advised that I could arrange to work with the NCMH and university students to allow them to gain a better understanding of mental health issues.
The first assessment with NCMH was a telephone interview followed up with blood samples being taken by my local GP and then sent back to Cardiff for analysis.
Reading the NCMH magazine has been very helpful at times and talking to other veterans also helps.
I work with the Open University staff on mental health challenges and was, for two years, a member of the Disabled Students Group involved in visits to the OU during meetings and seminars.
I have also visited the OU to make a presentation to the group involved in the Disabled Veterans Scholarship Fund.
During that presentation, I was asked why I had not applied for the scholarship.
My answer was to use it for vets who had lost limbs, not vets like me who still had all our limbs.
I was informed that this is the answer that vets who have suffered from their mental health like me always give.
Before my diagnosis, I was never worried about mental health issues or would ever have expected that I would suffer from a nervous breakdown.
But my story shows that mental health issues can happen to anyone, at any age and at any time.
I hope people will continue to take part in the Centre’s research and that it will lead to fewer challenges with mental health issues in the future.
We have produced resources on where and how to access help if you need it.
For more information, please visit our Resources page.
- Armed Forces Covenant
- Help for Heroes
- SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity
Free helpline 0800 731 4880
- Veterans Gateway
Help and advice available through a 24/7 phone line on 0808 802 1212
- Veterans UK
Veterans UK is MOD’s dedicated veterans support organisation. Free UK helpline 0808 1914 218