Former soldier wins research funding for helping traumatised veterans in Sunderland

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A BATTLE-SCARRED former soldier has been honoured for his work helping traumatised veterans on Wearside.

Garreth Murrell set up Veterans at Ease to help support struggling ex-troops.

The soldier has now been handed the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to boost his research into combat-related afflictions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The former platoon sergeant, who served in war zones such as Northern Ireland and Bosnia, uses the psychological treatment, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), to address the growing problem.

“The fellowship will allow me to travel to the US and Canada to research the use of NLP,” he said.

“The research will make a massive difference to the former service personnel I see in Sunderland and farther afield.”

After his service in the Armed Forces, Mr Murrell developed a debilitating stammer, suffered episodes of uncontrolled anger, along with paranoia, flashbacks and sleepless nights.

Although he did not know it, the 43-year-old, was suffering from PTSD, a common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. After counselling and psychotherapy failed to improve his condition, he tried NLP, which has also been adapted for use in fields such as business and sport.

“It is about re-programming the mind and taking the negative experiences away,” he said. “The therapist does not need to know what someone has gone through and they do not need to relive the experience.

“It is about what the experience means to somebody.

“Ultimately, everybody is different and some people are just better able to disassociate the negative stuff they experience than others.”

Mr Murrell – who served with the 1st battalion, 22nd Cheshire Regiment, now the Mercian regiment – set up Veterans at Ease in 2010 and is now a qualified NLP practitioner.

“The fellowship is a great opportunity to not only increase my knowledge around this very emotive subject it is also a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, make friends and build international bridges,” he said.

Veterans at Ease, which is based in Durham, provides confidential therapy sessions in NLP and helps veterans brush up their job-seeking skills with help with interviews and writing CVs.

It also works with the families of soldiers who have suffered trauma so they can understand what loved ones have gone through.

Mr Murrell, who left the Army to become a police crime scene investigator, said many former troops have slipped through the support net and “self-medicate” by turning to drink and drugs.

“In the next ten or 15 years, particularly with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a problem that is not going to go away,” said Mr Murrell, from County Durham.

For more information, visit www.veteransatease.org

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho