The Unnecessary Veteran

Karl Tearney Peot veteran and human being

My earliest memories were of wanting to fly, to be a pilot, and as I grew, I decided I wanted to be a military pilot. At 16 years of age, I joined the British Army as a Junior Leader with my aim to gain promotion and eventually become a rotary pilot. I was very fortunate to achieve this and flew up until my discharge at age 49. My discharge wasn’t through choice nor end of contract but rather something a little more troublesome.

I had begun sobbing uncontrollably and without reason, getting longer and more frequent I sought medical help. A lot happened over the next 2 years including therapy and a spell as an inpatient on a Mental Health ward.

Those were very dark days for me and when the Army decided to discharge me for medical reasons I couldn’t argue that it wasn’t the correct decision. Once discharged you become the responsibility of the NHS who should continue care and therapy.

Yet, another thing happened to me once discharged, the Ministry of Defence sent me a small metal badge which had written on it “Armed Forces Veteran” and included a note that I should wear it with pride. I was a little taken aback as I am old enough to have known both First and Second world war soldiers, none of which I remember wearing such a badge. Furthermore, I was no longer known by my name but was often referred to as the veteran.

The word Veteran is one that holistically has been associated with the US military and not something I felt was necessary for me. I don’t like the term “Veteran” and shy away from it as much as possible and indeed I haven’t ever worn that badge. That may appear ungrateful or perhaps even nonchalant, but I am not a veteran. I am now a poet; a writer and I suffer with a mental health condition called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)”.

My treatment since my discharge has been mixed as I was living in Hampshire when I discharged and I was very well looked after by the Andover Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). They prescribed my medicines, reviewed how effective they were as well as provide my care in the community. I had nothing to find fault with; furthermore, I wasn’t referred to as a veteran once and it had no real effect on either whom I was nor how I was treated. I was afforded no priority of treatment and quite rightly so.  

BBC Interview about mental health services featuring members of trowbridge service users group

Then I was encouraged by a worried friend to move closer to him so that he could help my recovery. He lived in Wiltshire near to Trowbridge and whilst it took a lot of mental courage I did eventually move. Upon arriving in Wiltshire, I met brick wall after brick wall with regard to getting anything associated with proper mental health care. My GP informed he that it was now their responsibility to look after my meds etc, despite them having no grounding in psychiatry nor the effects of my medicines.

BBC Interview about mental health services featuring members of trowbridge service users group including Karls Interview which was pick up by the BBC TV and ITV

It important that I hadn’t nor wouldn’t use the term Veteran as I don’t feel that entitles me to any priority of treatment because mental health is mental health (MH). Some people are born with very difficult MH conditions and others suffer later in life. Why should I expect any priority with my treatment simply because I had been in the Army. Of course, I heard and read about other veterans making demands and having a greater expectation than me but that sort of thing happens in all walks of life.

So, today I am still here in Wiltshire and receive no real MH support in the County. I’ve reached out to my surgery a number of times and have been told there isn’t anything wrong with me as I managed to turn up at the surgery and one doctor quizzed me as to why the Army wasn’t looking after me despite my discharge being 6 years ago

That brings me back to that word Veteran, as the media seem obsessed with the lack of MH support for people like me and seem completely uninterested in that same lack of support to non veterans. I find that very distasteful, shameful, and lacking in empathy. You see we are none of us more befitting MH services and it matters not what you may have done or not done as it should only ever be driven by your condition.

Yes, one could argue that a former service person with PTSD that has been gained from combat experiences may need specialist care simple because psychiatrists and mental health professionals may not understand jargon or have any experience of the battlefield. In my own case I’m not sure I needed that sort of assistance as my traumas are quite complicated being that my experience is mostly from being airborne.

What I can say is that the NHS needs to provide care holistically and nobody should be subject to a postcode lottery. Partnerships need to be held to account as to how they spend their monies and in each area. They should be reviewed annually and that should include a random patient questionnaire regarding how effective they felt they were treated. I don’t feel that today the Avon and Wiltshire Partnership Trust (AWP) is helping anyone less the most severe of patients with any MH issue.

I should also state that it is unfair to sideline sufferers of any MH condition or their needs simply in favour of a veteran as its completely unnecessary, we are after all the same. We are human, challenged by our mind’s sometime obsession with anything and everything but daily life.  We laugh, cry, talk, hide, and deal with things the same. We rely on whatever medicines are available and try to live as normal as we can. There is absolutely no need to single me out, offer me any priority or support over any other sufferer for I am not a veteran; I have a difficult mental health condition and am just like all the others who live with such a condition.

To summarise can I please raise the issue that we are all of us equally in need of help. That AWP is not providing any real tangible service to anyone but most importantly the media must begin to look out for everyone and not single out people like me based on in my view the pointless fact that I was once a soldier.

Karl Tearney

You can catch up with Karl at:

Karl Tearney – Facebook and Instagram

TSUG – Trowbridge Service Users Group

Veteran mulls quitting Wiltshire due to lack of mental health care BBC Interview with Karl

Author: admin