Jan 31 2013 by Tom Duffy, Skelmersdale Advertiser
Skelmersdale man Mark Minton urges veterans to confront post-traumatic-stress-disorder
FORMER soldier Mark Minton hopes other veterans will speak out about their emotional problems after he told the Advertiser about the horrors of Helmand.
Last week the Digmoor man revealed that his life had fallen apart after he completed a five-month tour of duty with the Army in Afghanistan.
Now the dad-of-three hopes other soldiers will consider talking about their problems despite the stigma still surrounding post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD).
Mark said: “I had to reach rock bottom before I could move forward. You have to lose everything and then you seek help.”
Mark has now made contact with Combat Stress, which provides care to veterans struggling with mental health problems.
The charity, which was founded in 1919, currently supports around 5000 veterans including 284 who served in Afghanistan and 638 who fought in Iraq.
A spokesman for Combat Stress told the Advertiser that the majority of veterans are reluctant to talk about their mental health problems.
He said: “Over 81% of veterans who responded to our survey said they were ashamed or embarrassed about their mental health problems, and one in three veterans were reluctant to talk to their families about it.”
The charity also revealed that on average it takes a veteran 13 years from discharge to approach Combat Stress about their problems.
Mark, who was discharged from the Army on medical grounds, told the Advertiser about the affect of losing friends in Afghanistan, and the accompanying guilt
He said: “I promised my best mate’s mum that I would bring him home safe from Afghanistan. We survived the first tour, but Darren was shot when he returned to Helmand.
“He died from his injuries in hospital back in the UK. I always thought he would make it and really struggled to come to terms with his death.
“I still go and see his mum, and talk to her.”
Mark was deployed to Shin Kalay with the Duke of Lancaster Regiment as part of the International Security Assistance Force’s attempt to drive the Taliban and al-Qaeda from the war-ravaged country.
The Lathom High old boy was armed with a 7.62mm general purpose machine gun, and took part in scores of gruelling gun fights with the enemy.
On one occasion Mark was blown off a roof after a rocket propelled grenade hit his elevated position. During another particularly heavy gun fight his commanding officer was knocked out after a round hit his helmet.
Mark said: “I thought he had been killed. He was not moving, and the suddenly he sat up. He started laughing, and then crying. He got back up and returned fire but we were both badly shaken. In the end we had to call in an airstrike to take out the Taliban position.
“You just don’t forget things like that.”
He now aspires to work as a counsellor with veterans, once he overcomes his own problems.
Mark is pleased that PTSD is now receiving more media coverage, and with the attention surrounding Prince Harry. He said: “From what I have heard, Harry is very much one of the lads and just gets on with it.”
If you are a veteran and need help call Combat Stress on 0800 138 1619. If you are depressed call the Samaritans on 08457909090.