FALKLANDS War veterans have warned of a mental health ‘ticking timebomb’ that could erupt if more is not done to help traumatised troops.
The message comes after Portsmouth yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the end of the conflict – which claimed 255 British lives.
Now, a team of veterans who were emotionally scarred by the war have spoken out, urging other troops not to suffer in silence.
Kevin Porter was an 18-year-old sailor on board HMS Fearless during the war and was diagnosed with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home.
The 53-year-old, of Fareham, claimed the UK had a ‘long way to go’ to beat the crisis.
He said: ‘It’s a big problem out there and it’s a ticking timebomb. We don’t know how to deal with it.
‘We’re very poor with dealing with mental health problems. It’s still a stigma.’
He added his mental health woes began soon after the war.
‘I was the town’s hero when I came home,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t go from being this fearless 18-year-old hero to the town’s loon. I kept it quiet.’
Dozens of veterans, serving personnel and city leaders watched the Falklands flag and Union flag being raised at yesterday’s commemoration.
Among them was Fratton man Chris Purcell, who was one of the survivors of HMS Sheffield which sank after being hit by an Argentine exocet missile.
He had been down to the galley to fetch hot water and remembers joking with the men. Moments later, many of them were killed as a missile blasted into the warship.
It was something that left Chris traumatised, with flashbacks plagueing his life.
He said: ‘I was living a lie. I was always wearing a smile and to everyone else I seemed happy. But I wasn’t. My head was all over the place.’
He said it wasn’t until he met his third wife, Louise, and began talking about his trauma that he began to heal.
He added: ‘Don’t suffer alone. There is plenty of help out there for people.’
Bob Mullen is the chairman of the Type 42 Association.
The 58-year-old, of North End – who was also on Sheffield when she was hit – is urging military personnel to speak out about their mental health issues and to not feel ashamed about them.
‘If you have got problems come forward and talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about,’ he said.
‘Talk to someone who has been through it. It does help.’
Portsmouth armed forces charity, Veteran Outreach Support has echoed the calls.
The group runs a monthly drop-in at Royal Maritime Club in Queen Street, Portsea, and was set up by a team of Falkland veterans.
It helps scores of veterans in crisis, signposting them to various clinical support services and national charities.
Manager Kath Hutton said: ‘There is hope out there. We hear stories of people who have been through significantly traumatic circumstances. You’ve got to be strong for that not to affect you.’
Drop-ins are the first Wednesday of the month, 2pm to 6pm. For details, see vosuk.org