This week our Let’s Talk About It campaign reveals the story of a former soldier who turned his life around thanks to some great support

Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.Let's Talk About It - the North Devon Gazette's campaign on mental health.

A former soldier who lost his partner, his home and attempted to take his own life is now a volunteer working to help others.

Phil Rogers left the army with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and became addicted to alcohol to try and suppress the terrible things he’d seen.

He now volunteers at RISE Recovery alcohol and drug support service in Barnstaple because he doesn’t want to see other people go through the ‘hell’ he lived.

The 47-year-old served in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving high ranking officials in armoured vehicles, as well as the critically injured in ambulances.

He said: “I’ve seen a lot – mutilated bodies, horrific train crashes and I’ve been shot at.”

Depression and anxiety set in and he began to drink heavily, eventually being discharged and sent home as a result.

“There was no support from within the army. There was just a ‘shut up and get on with it’ attitude,” he said.

“I’d never been a big drinker but I was just getting wrecked every night to forget everything I had seen.”

Back in the UK, Phil went through several jobs, but the alcohol had taken hold: “The alcohol was to try to manage the recurring nightmares I was getting.

“My anxiety was overwhelming. At one point I couldn’t walk down the street because it was too crowded – the noise was too much. I remember one day some kids jumped on a carton and I hit the deck.”

He was diagnosed with depression and PTSD and lost his girlfriend, his car and his home.

Phil, originally from Reading, was sent to an alcohol rehabilitation centre in Barnstaple but after trying to take his own life spent six weeks on a mental health ward at North Devon District Hospital where he received the treatment he needed.

“I can finally walk down the street without any anxiety,” he said.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air just to feel normal. But it’s been a hugely difficult journey and a battle to get the support I should have had from the start.

“Mental health doesn’t get the focus it should and certainly not from the MoD.

“I want to sincerely apologise to my parents and everyone else who I have hurt during my alcohol abuse. And I would like to thank my counsellor who has helped me every step of the way.

“I hope by volunteering for RISE I can make a difference.

“The staff are fantastic and it’s been life-changing to have their openness and support to help me open up in a way I never have.”