When Nigel needed help to cope with the mental effects of his combat experience, The Seafarers’ Charity-funded Veterans Outreach was the only place he could turn to.

Nigel joined the Navy in 1970, aged just 16. Being from the Midlands, a lot of his school friends went to work in car factories. Nigel didn’t want that. He wanted to see the world, so he went to the Royal Navy careers office and joined up. From that day, much of his life would be spent at sea.

Nigel loved the Navy, but going away was still difficult. He got married at 20 and the separation was hard – he believes his wife was a strong woman to cope with it. When his daughters were born, it got worse. When he came back from deployments, he felt like he was in the way, upsetting the routine.

But going away was just part of the job, it’s what Nigel signed up for.

His involvement in the Falklands War however, was different. It was 40 years ago, but the impact the war had on Nigel was what eventually led him to Veterans Outreach.

He was aboard the Navy’s flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. It was a fearful time and no amount of training or preparation could stop your part of the ship being hit by an enemy aircraft.

But the day that affected Nigel most was 25th May 1982. Another ship in the fleet, HMS Sheffield, was hit and sunk by an Argentinian missile. A lot of men died in the attack.

The survivors were airlifted on to Nigel’s ship. He was one of the many helping them. He saw some terrible things that day: the death, the burnt bodies, lots of men in tremendous pain and a state of shock.

He wasn’t physically injured himself, but a few years later, the mental harm he’d received started to take effect. Every night he’d have nightmares about being unable to escape fire and seeing burnt faces. His wife told him he would kick and punch in his sleep. Because Nigel was still serving in a very macho environment, he couldn’t tell anyone.

After a while, the stress and anxiety started creeping into every part of Nigel’s life. He’d have exploding chest pain, he couldn’t control his emotions; he was burnt out – tired and angry all at once.

He went to his GP, but they didn’t understand. It was only once he spoke with his unit’s chaplain that he heard of Veterans Outreach. The chaplain understood what he was going through, because years before he’d been lying next to Nigel on Hermes when their ship was under attack from Argentinian aircraft.

Nigel needed help, and within ten minutes of arriving at the Veterans Outreach office he was speaking with Helen, one of their counsellors.

Nigel was quite emotional and tearful. Helen recognised he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder– finally someone took him seriously. She recommended he has 10 weeks counselling – that’s what turned his life around. She helped Nigel tease out the reasons for his anxiety.

Veterans Outreach understands the Forces ethos, their ways and what it’s like to have served.

‘The counselling hasn’t cost me a penny, but goodness me; it’s been so rewarding coming here to get my life back. Things are still tough, but I can cope with them now.’ - Nigel

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