TRAUMATISED troops are being thrown a new lifeline by two retired soldiers who overcame their mental health demons to set up a support network.
Friends Daniel Arnold and Stephen James both faced their battle against post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following stints in the army.
The pair managed to fight back after being close to breaking point and have now set up a site to help their fellow comrades in need.
Known as All Call Signs, the online network is manned by a team of volunteers who have all been in the armed forces.
It’s hoped the organisation will become a lifeline for those on the cusp of mental breakdown, as well as a key link for those struggling to adjust to civvy street.
And within three days of launching, the Portsmouth-based service has already helped more than 30 people, receiving praise from veterans and politicians.
Stephen, who was a Private with The Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2PWRR), said: ‘We have both been in a dark place, both for very different reasons. We know what it’s like to feel very, very alone.
‘So if we can do something that stops other people feeling that way and take them away from that isolation that would mean everything for us.
The network was created in a matter of days by web design guru Stephen.
It uses social networking platform WhatsApp to connect people in need with the site’s on-duty team of supporters on ‘phone stag’.
The pair can then talk together in privacy about any issue, from coping with PTSD, to paying bills, finding jobs or getting used to civilian life.
Stephen and Daniel stressed the network is not about replacing traditional support groups, charities and medical health care already available but complementing them, signposting people one where necessary.
Afghanistan veteran Daniel, who was a Lance Corporal with 2PWRR, said: ‘The real beauty of this is if someone was in crisis it puts them in touch with someone else who’s been in their shoes and who can metaphorically talk them off the ledge.
‘If you were feeling at the point where you thought you had no other choice and you could have a friendly ear, who’s worn the same boots as you, walked the same mile as you, and who could relate to that, I think that would make all the difference.’
Stephen, 31, of Portsmouth, hopes the site would help to stop people from spiralling out of control. The dad-of-six said soldiers were ‘proud’ but ‘very bad’ at admitting when they needed help, something he struggled to do when he began feeling suicidal after leaving the army to help his family.
‘I left the army to support my family but once they didn’t need looking after anymore I was without a purpose,’ he said. ‘I missed my friends and I felt incredibly lonely, I was in a really good job but I was really really low.
‘At one point I was just sat in London, I got blind drunk, sat on the edge of a crossing over a road and contemplating jumping. That’s the lowest I have ever been.’
He was at his lowest ebb, psychologically, when his son nearly died of meningitis just days after being born eight weeks prematurely.
‘It took me longer to recover from that than I would care to admit,’ he said.
Dad-of-one Daniel, who lives in Waterlooville but works as a facilities manager at Catherine House in Portsmouth, said his PTSD manifested after he was medically discharged from the army when he broke his back playing football.
He said he became very ‘alienated’ and it was only through exercise and his love of sports that he was able to recover.
The pair now have ambitions to expand their network of supporters from 40 to up to 300 and are eager for those with military experience who want to help to get in touch.
For details, see allcallsigns.org or search ‘All Call Signs’ on Facebook.