Hartlepool veterans told 'don't be proud' about seeking help

Thomas Wilson.Thomas Wilson.
Thomas Wilson.
A forces veteran responsible for looking after the welfare of former servicemen and women insists: 'Don't be proud. There's plenty of help out there if you need it.'

Thomas Wilson served with the Royal Artillery for nearly 40 years and now assists retired personnel with issues ranging from their mental health to homelessness.

Tragic examples include one ex-soldier who was scared to leave home in case something as innocent as an exploding crisp packet triggered unhappy military memories.

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Mr Wilson, whose role as welfare officer with the Royal Artillery Association (RAA) covers an area stretching from Northumberland to Lincolnshire, explained: “I think a lot of soldiers are too proud to admit they have problems.

“They don’t always admit there is something wrong because that is the way they have been trained and what has been instilled in them. You become private and try to sort things out yourself when really you need specialists to help you.

“And they are military specialists who help you. Doctors who have experience of dealing with what you are talking about.

“My message would be don’t be proud. There’s plenty of help out there if you need it.”

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Mr Wilson, 73, from Hartlepool, who served in Northern Ireland and the Falklands War, accepts that even expert support cannot save everyone.

He added: “We had one lad from the North East who had served 22 years and was on 14 different types of medication, morphine and diamorphine, after serving in Afghanistan.

“He should have been sectioned but if you know what answers to give to the questions then they have to let you go.

“He got himself a bungalow on his own. But his PTSD was so bad that if heard a crisp packet going pop or a bird flying by would take him back to his Army days.

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“It got to the state that he would leave money in a note through his neighbour’s letterbox so that they could get him food.

“They would then leave it on his doorstep without without even seeing him. Eventually he died of liver failure as a result of all the drugs he was taking.”

Mr Wilson, however, is also keen to emphasis the association’s success stories, adding: “We had one guy recently who was left homeless.

“A phone call quickly got him a flat, although it was unfurnished.

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“The grapevine was sounded and suddenly there were people turning up with fridge freezers and three-piece suites.

“He did quite well out of it and all out of comradeship that veterans have for each other. It truly is a band of brothers.”