Fighting an invisible enemy

Jessica Tait with fellow students on a sponsored fitness event raising money for Combat Stress.'The West Rainton student is hoping to raise more than �500 for Combat Stress the UK's leading military charity specialising in the care of Veterans' mental health.
Jessica Tait with fellow students on a sponsored fitness event raising money for Combat Stress.'The West Rainton student is hoping to raise more than �500 for Combat Stress the UK's leading military charity specialising in the care of Veterans' mental health.
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THEY are the invisible scars of war that are often as hard to bear as any physical wound.

Student Jessica Tait, from West Rainton, was just 10 when her dad, a former Army medic, took his own life as he struggled to cope with the psychological impact of a six-month tour in Iraq.

Little more than two years later, her uncle, an ex-para, met the same fate.

“It devastated the whole family,” said Jessica, now 17. “My dad never really talked about his time in the Army. He suffered in silence.

“But even now, the situation doesn’t seem to have improved any. People still struggle to get the help they need.”

By speaking about the double tragedy, Jessica hopes to raise awareness about the growing problem of conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to reports, at least 1,200 new veterans are seeking help for mental health issues each year from the service charity Combat Stress.

The effects they suffer from can range from nightmares or flashbacks to huge personality changes.

Jessica’s dad Robert, 31, served as a Combat Medical Technician in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Gulf War, while her uncle Tony Williams, 36, was in the Parachute Regiment.

“Yet despite her ordeal, Jessica, a member of the Army Cadets, is still determined to pursue a career in the Armed Forces.

“I’m seriously thinking about becoming a pilot in the RAF,” she said. “It’s something a really want to do.”

Twitter:@sunechojohnston

THIS month, Jessica organised a “fitness circuit” fund-raiser at New College Durham, Framwellgate Moor, in aid of Combat Stress.

The sponsored event, which raised £460, saw the public services student and her friends, pictured above, complete a series of sponsored exercises.

“My uncle suffered from the same disorder as my dad,” she said. “He got help from Combat Stress and went to their outreach programmes. “I know first-hand what these kind of problems can do to a person and a family.”