Event combines new PTSD research with basic training and panel discussions
6 April 2017
Armed Forces veterans told how life on the frontline left a legacy of flashbacks, acute anxiety and depression at a special event hosted by Edinburgh Napier University.
Jason Fox - ‘Foxy’ from Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins - and former commando Jamie Sanderson travelled to Scotland to recount their life-changing struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The all-day event on Wednesday April 5, which celebrated the university’s proud links with the military and its signing of the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant, also heard the results of new cutting-edge research into PTSD.
Foxy gave local army cadets a taste of boot camp training, and a panel discussion heard from journalist and author Matthew Green, writer of Aftershock, an influential analysis of life after combat.
Jason Fox, who served in hotspots with the Special Boat Service, brokered hostage releases and took part in counter-insurgency ops, was gripped by depression as he struggled to adjust to civilian life.
His friend Jamie Sanderson, a former Royal Marine who served as a sniper in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Afghanistan, founded the Rock 2 Recovery charity after his warzone experiences left him anxious, confused and on the brink of suicide.
Both men spoke about their experiences to an audience at the Lindsay Stewart Lecture Theatre at the university’s Craiglockhart campus, site of the military hospital where war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon first met a century ago.
The session was led by the university’s Thanos Karatzias, Professor of Mental Health, who presented the latest evidence on a new condition linked to childhood trauma, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its relevance for military personnel.
Jason Fox puts his PTSD down to “an overload of emotions that resulted in me reflecting on situations in a negative way” after a series of intense tours.
He said: “It is important to find the right people who you are able to talk to, and to focus on finding yourself and your identity and moving forward with a positive mindset.”
Jamie Sanderson said: “My own journey with mental health and particularly the PTS that I inherited following an intense deployment to Afghanistan has seen many low lows and equally many high highs. The key to a better life, we believe, is to get the help that works for you as an individual and also to help yourself.
“Your Rock to Recovery is the focus you apply to the positives in your life changes. The desire to recover from mental illness and brain injuries must be greater than the desire to remain in the darkness. We need to smash the stigma and empower our veterans and their families to come forward for help.”
Edinburgh Napier last year signed the Armed Forces Covenant, committing the university to offering existing or former forces personnel a range of flexible entry paths on to degree courses which acknowledge prior qualifications and relevant experience.
As a Forces-friendly employer, the university is also committed to supporting new or existing staff from armed forces backgrounds and investing in their future career development.
University Principal, Professor Andrea Nolan, said: “We are taking steps through our policy making and service provision to ensure serving personnel, reservists and veterans are welcomed into our university.
“We have also introduced a mentoring service for ex-service personnel who work or study with us to help with the transition from military to civilian life.”
Edinburgh Napier is also working with Colinton Primary School, where a high percentage of the pupils have a family member in service, on an outreach programme which encourages pupils to consider going to university.
Wednesday’s event ended with a panel discussion on PTSD from combat, emergency services and journalistic perspectives.
Professor Neil Greenberg, Veterans’ Health President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society, chaired the session, which included contributions from Jason Fox, Jamie Sanderson, journalist Matthew Green, and Simon Lee, co-founder of PTSD999, a charity set up to help emergency service workers suffering from PTSD.
The pictures above show Foxy and Regimental Sergeant Major Dan Elliot from Rock 2 Recovery putting cadets through their paces, and Sandra Cairncross, Assistant Principal Student Experience, and Eric Fraser, Scottish Veterans Commissioner, with the Armed Forces Covenant.
Edinburgh Napier and the armed forces