Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Veteran lost best friend to suicide, took back his own life

PTSD: 'My best friend's death gave me back my life'

Ben Bryant
14 May 2019

Why do the rates of post traumatic stress disorder appear to be rising in veterans?

“John Paul Finnigan’s death gave me life. Something changed in me from that day. I put the drugs down, I went into treatment and got healthy, and it was all down to John Paul’s death. He gave me life.”  Lee Harding

Warning: some upsetting content

"No. I’m not really going to go into that."

Lee Harding cups the side of his face with his palm and paws it softly. His other arm is folded across his chest. He is staring at the wall. His fingers brush a tattoo of two teardrops on his cheek.

"I can’t talk about that," he says quietly, without looking at me.

Lee’s home is unfinished. There are fillers and paints and building materials scattered around the rooms. The lounge has an easy chair and a sofa. There is no TV, there are no pictures and the walls need painting. Lee acknowledges all this with a shrug when I arrive, explaining that some kids had trashed the place before he moved in, and he’s been rebuilding it. It is a new beginning for the house in Merseyside.

It’s a new beginning for Lee too. He has been piecing his life back together over the last year, after he found himself caught in a spiral of drug use, which he says was an attempt to escape the trauma of what he witnessed in combat. Shortly after he returned from Iraq, Lee was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As a soldier, he served on the front line from 2005 to 2008 with 1st Battalion Royal Green Jackets, which later amalgamated with four other regiments to form 2nd Battalion, The Rifles. Recently, he has noticed that many of the people he was deployed to Iraq with have been struggling.

Several are in treatment for drug and alcohol dependency. And two members of his regiment – Kevin Williams, 29 and John Paul Finnigan, 34 – killed themselves last year, the latter one of Lee’s best friends. A third, Kevin Holt, 30, also died after a lengthy battle with PTSD.
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