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Owen’s story

After leaving the military, Owen suffered from PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Now, he supports other military veterans who are struggling.

After being discharged from the military Owen suffered from social isolation and suicidal thoughts.

Unknowingly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the married dad-of-two even went as far as planning how he would kill himself.

Owen had fought during the 2006 campaign in Iraq, served in military operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and also with the United Nations in Cyprus.

He was awarded the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal, for serving more than 1,080 days in the forward combat area.

Two years into civilian life though, Owen fell into what he described as darkness.

“I remember going to see the doctor and the GP asking me ‘are you close to suicide?’

“I told him I was one step away from it and just needed to complete the plan.”

It was at that point that Owen was referred to the Bury branch of the Military Veterans Service.

“I’d been diagnosed with PTSD, social isolation, survivor’s guilt and depression,” said Owen.

“Thankfully I’d been told about Bury Veterans Breakfast Club and the Borough of Bury Veterans Association.

“There’s no other way of saying it, other than when arrived at the breakfast club, I was home.

“I was back with my military family. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been part of but it’s a brotherhood, a family.

“With counselling sessions combined with spending time at the breakfast club, I started to progress.”

Owen is now secretary for the Bury branch of the Military Veterans Service and is shining a light on suicide for everybody, not just veterans.

“It can’t just be generalised to one part of society,” said Owen.

“We need to talk about suicide. Life is important. Every single life is important.”

“I see my daughters growing up and I want them to able to think that they can go and speak to somebody. No one should suffer in silence. I spent two years thinking that no one would want to listen to me. I was wearing a poker face, ‘yeah I’m happy’ but I wasn’t happy inside. Life’s important and too short. Somebody taking their life is not right, people should live a full life.”

Owen also believes more people could learn about ‘The Buddy-Buddy system’.

“We’ve got something in the Army called ‘The Buddy-Buddy System’ – we keep an eye on each other,” said Owen.

“There are indicators that someone is not feeling good, there are indicators that someone may be thinking of taking their own life. People could be educated more on this.

“We can easily adopt this and look after each other. Not just your family and friends – work colleagues, even people you see once a day. It’s taking the time to ask them how they are doing should you notice something different.”

He added: “You can’t look down on somebody and just tell them to get out of a dark place. You have to be prepared to sit with them, be patient and tell them ‘I’m here to support you, as soon as you want to talk, we’ll talk’. Shine a light into their dark place to give them hope and help them walk out of it.”

The ‘Shining A Light On Suicide’ campaign has been commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership to take the sensitive subject of suicide out of the dark and encourage everyone to talk about it in an honest, open and direct way, so no one sees suicide as a solution to their problems.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 49, women aged between 20 and 34 and is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29.

Statistics show that many men in particular who have died by suicide did not ask for help or speak to someone before they took their life.

The #shiningalightonsuicide campaign encourages people to talk about suicide in an honest and open way so no one feels it is a solution to their problems.

Together we can help prevent suicide. Suicide affects us all. Encourage someone to talk before suicide seems their only option.

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