Desperate former soldiers suffering from PTSD are stretching 999 services to breaking point

Veterans returning from duty are increasingly seeking emergency help due to a devastating lack of mental health support

Emergency services are being stretched to the limit by soldiers and veterans ­suffering from post-traumatic stress ­disorder.

The shocking pressure has been ­revealed by paramedics and police who increasingly have to deal with military personnel driven to the edge of sanity by their harrowing experiences in war zones.

In one county where there are eight armed forces bases, the call-out log ­includes these incidents.

A SUICIDAL soldier who had taken a drug overdose in barracks.

A TORMENTED Iraq veteran ­threatening to shoot his girlfriend and children.

A PTSD VICTIM collapsing in the street with a seizure brought on by overwhelming memories of horror in Afghanistan.

One cop said: “You can’t train ­somebody to be the ultra-aggressive ­killing machines that we want them to be and then expect them to be able to shut it off completely when they’re back.”

And an ambulance caller – backing the Sunday People’s campaign for a drastic overhaul of the Ministry of Defence’s treatment of PTSD sufferers – says: “They should be given more support.

“We’re getting more of these calls and it’s taking away emergency resources.”

A serving soldier commits suicide every month and there are thought to be over 10,000 veterans with mental illness.

Tomorrow night the Channel 4 series 999 What’s Your Emergency follows Wiltshire police, paramedics and fire service as they struggle to cope with the county’s 15,000 military personnel pushed to breaking point after ­returning from war zones.

Afghanistan veteran Sgt Neil Edwards of the Royal Corps Signals suffers from PTSD and the ambulance call made while he suffered a seizure at home is featured on the show.

Neil doesn’t think he’ll ever fully recover from his PTSD (Image: Channel 4)
“I remember being on the floor having a seizure,” the 37-year-old recalls.

“My neighbour walked past and asked if I was OK and I just remember crying my eyes out. Your whole body seizes up and you start shaking.” Neil was diagnosed with the disorder after returning from a tour of Helmand province in Afghanistan with the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS) four years ago.

The father-of-two, who joined the Army at 16, said: “You hear about PTSD and read about it, but I never thought I would have it. It was just this vicious circle of hell.

“My kids couldn’t make much noise because screams were just too much for me. It was too much sensory overload and I just couldn’t cope. I was angry all the time.”

In one traumatic mission the vehicle carrying his comrades hit a bomb in the road. Three died and six were hurt.

Neil’s wife Becky, 35, said: “When Neil came back from Helmand, I knew something wasn’t quite right with him.

Neil’s wife Becky admits he wasn’t the same after returning from Helmand (Image: Channel 4)
“He was short-tempered and not the person I knew. I couldn’t say I thought he had PTSD because he’s a man. He needed to realise it for himself. It wasn’t until he went to a Christmas party and a cracker went off and he came home in bits and said ‘I’m not well’.”

Neil added: “I don’t think PTSD is a sign of weakness. It’s just the things I did and saw, my brain goes, ‘I just can’t take any more’. I don’t need to man up or shake it off, I just have to live with it.”

Neil left the Army last Wednesday and the Edwards family have moved to Devon where he is waiting for ­thereapy for his PTSD.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be fully healed – I might get to 95 per cent,” he said.

But there are other soldiers without the same support who turn to emergency services when PTSD overwhelms them.

Army veteran Rory Fitzpatrick rarely leaves the house other than to buy groceries, and cannot handle the pressures of being in a crowded place. Rory, 49, who was shot in the back and saw comrades killed during his war service, has been reported to Wiltshire Police for making repeated calls for a ambulance.

Paramedics are under a shocking amount of pressure (Image: E+)
But the desperate ex-serviceman ­insisted it was because he is in dire need of help and is not getting the support he needs. “If I’d had the care and the medication prior to this, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.

“I suffer from PTSD and I struggle everyday with it,” he said. “Every single day. I personally think they need to put me back in a unit and sit me down with specialists that can deal with this.

“But there’s not a chance in hell that will happen. There’s always a shortage of beds.”

Police call handler Ian Oakley took a call from a soldier who has taken an overdose at his barracks. Ian said: “They’re too scared to let their regiment know, based on ‘I’m a soldier and I’m supposed to deal with this, they think I’m a wimp or not a man’. So for him to pick up the phone was a big thing.”

With plans to move 4,000 more troops to Wiltshire, the number of emergency call-outs relating to military personnel is only set to rise.

Soon, one quarter of the Army will live in this county. There are eight Army bases across the county and clashes between squaddies and civilians are another cause of 999 calls.

With young soldiers three times more likely to commit a violent offence, the number of call-outs by the emergency services to incidents involving squaddies is expected to increase.

One Swindon-based soldier in the Channel 4 documentary is arrested for an unprovoked attack on a 76-year-old widower.

Private Kieran Biddle, a 20-year-old in basic training, was on a night out when he attacked the pensioner in the street.

The elderly man, an RAF ­veteran, was left with a broken eye socket and jaw.

If the soldier had punched him an inch higher the blow could have killed him. The vicious attack was captured on CCTV and Biddle was later convicted of GBH and handed a 16-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

Kieran Biddle was found guilty of an unprovoked attack on a pensioner (Image: Channel 4)
Another soldier, Corporal Kurt Dawson, came to the attention of the emergency services after he sexually assaulted a woman and attacked door staff at a pub in Warminster.

The 26-year-old had drunk 12 pints and vodka Red Bulls which led him to forget the events of the night before, his first night out after a nine-month tour of duty.

He pleaded guilty to sexual touching and assault and was fined £1,600 and ordered to pay compensation of £750.

The Sunday People wants an independent inquiry into the way the MoD treats PTSD. We have won the backing of MPs from all parties.

And a former head of the Army, General Lord Dannatt, believes the Government is breaking the law by failing to recognise PTSD as a serious condition.

The Ministry of Defence said: “We are committed to the mental fitness of our personnel and have launched our new strategy and partnered with the Royal Foundation to tackle mental health issues head on.”


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