Lee Dodgson’s mum Roseann is backing the Sunday People’s Save Our Soldiers campaign, which is demanding the Government does more to help troops
Lee Dodgson’s mum Roseann, who claims her son got better treatment when he moved to Spain, said: “Britain should be ashamed.”
Lee’s mental health crumbled after he was sent into almost every war zone the British Army has operated in during the last 25 years.
Roseann claims the the military washed their hands of him and the NHS failed to help after he turned to drink to blot out PTSD nightmares.
Lee, 40, a former corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, was found dead after falling from a castle wall near his new home in Tortosa, north-east Spain.
Roseann, speaking after the Sunday People launched a campaign for a drastic overhaul in the treatment of Servicemen and women with mental health problems, said: “Alarm bells were ringing but there was no-one there to really help him – no-one for him to talk to.
“It’s like his case was an embarrassment to them, the old ‘stiff upper lip attitude’, they don’t want to talk about it, you just deal with it.”
She said Lee – who was medically discharged two years ago – had tried to commit suicide on at least three occasions and had also appeared in court following an altercation in a chip shop in his home town of Skipton, North Yorks.
“There were all these warning signs, the suicide attempts, the appearance in court. But no-one helped him. That’s what makes us so angry. You’d think someone would piece it together.
‘“But they were just saying if he stops drinking he’ll be ok. They couldn’t look any further than the alcohol, they didn’t look at his mental health, they just looked at him as an alcoholic.
“But he drank because he had a deeper problem, that was the real issue.”
She told how Lee would tearfully tell her he was hearing voices and seeing faces in his peripheral vision, but when they sought help they authorities in the UK would dismiss him saying ‘he’s drunk’.
She said he had sought help both in the Army and when he was discharged: “He told us that he used to talk, tell them what was wrong, but no-one listened, so he stopped talking.”
It was only when Lee moved to Spain in January last year that he started to receive the real help he needed, she said
“The Spanish took more responsibility for a British soldier than the UK did. The Spanish have been brilliant. Britain should be ashamed. He wasn’t just a number, he was my boy.
“They have their own funding problems in Spain but they took the time and care which was needed.”
She said Lee had died instantly after falling from a castle wall after blacking out due to the heavy medication he was taking which made him drowsy and disorientated. These sudden blackouts had been happening without any warning signs two or three times a week.
He had been sat there listening to music and looking out onto the mountain range where his father’s ashes were scattered.
Roseann said: “Things started getting bad for Lee around 2005. I don’t think it was picked up early enough, that’s what makes me really angry. His marriage broke down because of the PTSD. She had to put up with it, with a young baby and insufficient help from the Army.”
But brother Gareth – himself a former Signalman – said Lee’s problem’s started when he was much younger.
Gareth said: “It all started when he was just 18 or 19 in Bosnia. Over a beer he’d tell me he’d seen mass graves, massacred kids, he just couldn’t get the images or the smell out of his head. He was just a young lad himself, imagine being exposed to that.
“It wasn’t an immediate change, but over the years you could see it. I was in the Army myself, posted abroad, so I could go a year without seeing him.
“He was a quiet unassuming guy. But I could see there was a change, why did no-one pick up on it?”
Gareth also claimed the authorities in the UK had failed to recognise he needed help.
He said: “They visited his home. But social workers advised his wife to pack her bags and leave him – otherwise they would take their daughter into care. Instead of helping they threatened to take his kid away.”
Figures have revealed that one serviceman or woman commits suicide every two week with nearly 400 taking their lives between 1995 and 2014.
Roseann said: “He was in the army for 21 years, the only thing he ever wanted was to be a soldier, it was his life, the Army is your life. He served in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan
“The Army should have seen there was a problem. He was really well qualified, worked on a lot of covert operations. He was one of the first men to be dropped in Afghanistan, one of the first over the border into Kosovo and behind enemy lines in Baghdad.
“But if you have a mental problem they don’t want to know. It’s just ‘not British’ is it? And it’s just not right.
“He hadn’t known anything but the Army since he was 16. He came out with a mental disorder but they didn’t put any safety nets in place.”
Lee’s cousin David said: “He was promoted up through the ranks, he made Corporal and was Acting Sergeant at one point. But then something would happen and he’d be demoted. Then he’d be promoted again, only to be demoted again.
“The lad was on an upward career path, he was good at his job. Why didn’t anyone ask ‘why he’d changed?’
“Why has this guy who is excellent at his job gone off the rails? Why did no-one in the Army pick up on that? It doesn’t make any sense that no-one picked up on it at all.”
Gareth said: “He was drinking heavily. There is a drinking culture in the Army, it’s a part of Army life. They just assumed the issue was his drinking. They didn’t look at the underlying causes. He told me he used to drink to stop the nightmares and flashbacks. He was an insomniac, he said he didn’t want to go to sleep because of the nightmares.
“He would sit there and have a full conversation with his mate who died 10 years ago. He’s sit in the kitchen having a full conversation while making him dinner.
“When he was based in Germany he wasn’t turning up for work. He’d switched off, he didn’t care. A couple of friends physically took him to the clinic. He was getting some support out there, but when he came back to Bulford it stopped.”
David said: “We felt like they’d washed their hands of him. I got involved and rang his Captain. I told them there was a problem. But it was like talking to a brick wall.
“We had to fight as a family to try and get him help. The Army should be responsible for their soldiers, but there’s no duty of care.
“If you get your legs blown off you rightly get help, you are in the clinic for months and get all the support you need. But if you have mental health problems there appears to be nothing.
“Lee is a casualty of war, but no-one recognises it. He died because of war, because he’s a soldier, but it’s been downgraded because he died in mysterious circumstances.
“The politicians make grand gestures sending these young men into theatre, but at the end, when the fighting stops, they’re not there for these guys.
“The Armed Forces discharge soldiers back into civilian life with no controls. Surely someone should be looking at this. We spend billions sending troops in, where are the billions to support them when they come out.
David said the family believed there should be assessments of all soldiers coming back from tours.
“That should be the norm. And there should be a plan in place on how to deal with PTSD. They should assume everyone has it.
“I’d say if 40,000 young lads go out into conflict with someone shooting at them, trying to kill them, seeing all those horrific things, seeing their friends being killed, then 39,000 of them are going to be affected. You are going to be a different person when you get back.
“But those in charge behave like ostriches, burying their heads in the sand, because that’s easier isn’t it?
“How many young men are in this position. Any lad who has been in a war zone is going to be affected.
“Politicians need to get to grips with this, someone has got to make the change, they need to start taking it seriously. Something has to be put in place so this doesn’t happen again to another family.”
What Clive Lewis, shadow defence secretary, says…
The Chilcot Report has focused public attention once again on the sacrifices made by a generation of young British soldiers.
It was a reminder that many of those who fought in Iraq and in Afghanistan still live with their experiences to this day.
I was one of them. After active service, I faced the sudden return to civilian life and it wasn’t easy.
So I know from personal experience that many veterans face challenges from PTSD, as well as depression, anxiety, and many other long-term conditions.
And when I say I want the best possible support for our veterans, it is a personal as well as political mission.
The Military Covenant is the duty owed by any government to those who have served – yet too many still face unemployment, physical and mental health problems, even homelessness. They deserve better, we owe them better, and as Shadow Defence Secretary I’ll demand better.
Part of the problem comes down to a simple lack of information. If we don’t even know who or where our veterans are, we can’t tell who might need help and whether or not they are getting it. The easiest way to do that would be to include it in the census – which currently lets people identify themselves as a Jedi, but not as a veteran.
That is truly ridiculous, and it’s why I will support the British Legion’s ‘Count them in’ campaign, calling for a question on military service to be included in the next census in 2021.
\u201cIt\u2019s like his case was an embarrassment to them, the old \u2018stiff upper lip attitude\u2019, they don\u2019t want to talk about it, you just deal with it.\u201d<\/p>\n