A FALKLANDS veteran has spoken of how the horrors of war affected him mentally for 25 years.
After experiencing the harrowing warfare of the UK’s conflict with Argentina in 1982, Michael Roche, of Grindon, is still left with the mental scars of battle.
As missile man aboard HMS Broadsword, he was part of the crew which rescued members of HMS Coventry after it was bombed by enemy fighter planes.
Nineteen people on board HMS Coventry died, with more than 30 left injured as the vessel was sunk.
Michael, 49, who signed up aged 17, says he will never forget what happened on May 25, 1982.
“A lot of the lads we saved were in a bad way,” said Michael, a dad-of-four.
“It was pretty traumatic and with the ship being sunk, we were just trying to get people out of the water.”
On returning to civvy street after almost a decade of service, Michael was able to find work in the security industry, but as time went on his then-undiagnosed illness continued to affect his life.
“I think a lot of things seemed to happen way before I took notice,” he said.
“I took to drink and I was feeling a lot of anxiety all of the time.
“Then about six years ago things were getting bad for me, so I contacted a services charity and someone came out to see me.”
It was then that Michael was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
For the past few years he has been able to cope through trips to a specialist treatment centre with Combat Stress, which help ex-service personnel to deal with the issues such as PTSD.
“Since I first went I’ve been back five times because they are a brilliant organisation,” said Michael.
He is now in a happy relationship with wife of two years Julie, 48. “It’s always there, so I try my best to cope with it, which I’d say I’m doing really well.
“I have my good days and bad, but I just get on with it.”
Michael is urging those who may have been affected to seek help at the earliest opportunity, with thousands of young men and women risking their lives fighting the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan.
“The quicker the people coming back from these type of conflicts get help, the better,” added Michael.
“It took me 25 years to get diagnosed, but I didn’t know how to contact anybody about it.”
The Combat Stress 24-hour helpline is available to veterans, serving personnel and their families by calling 0800 138 1619.
For more go to www.combatstress.org.uk