Supporting Our Heroes
When we were at RAF Odiham for their air show at the weekend, we met up with our close friend Liz, who we haven’t seen for a while due to postings and COVID. The day before, we found out that on the same day a year earlier, she had tried to take her own life by overdosing on almost 100 antidepressants.
Thankfully, she was unsuccessful. She was in a coma on life support, and then went into a Veteran counselling programme – but she is still with us.
As we watch events in Afghanistan unfold, there’s a collective holding of breath and a deepening sense of sadness. Those of us connected with the military, whether that is as still serving personnel, veterans, or family and friends – we remember.
During her 17-year career in the RAF, Liz deployed many times as Chinook air crew, including Iraq twice and Afghanistan 10 times. Much of her time in Afghanistan was spent as IRT which later became MERT (Medical Emergency Response Team) - It was their job to recover wounded soldiers from the battlefield.
When the conflict in Afghanistan ramped up, approx. 2008-2014, the MERT Chinook was transformed into a flying ambulance, with a team of two pilots, two crewmen, four medics, and 4-6 force protection personnel. MERT was tasked with getting airborne, recovering the casualty(s), and returning to base for treatment – all within the ‘golden’ hour. The quickest Liz and her team managed to get wheels up and in the air was 3.5 minutes. And the busiest was 14 MERT shouts in one day, which sadly soon became the norm.
As a pilot, Mr P's experience on MERT was quite different to Liz's - his job was to get his crew and casualties away and back to base as quickly and safely as possible, which meant he couldn't generally see what was going on down the back of the Chinook. However, as a senior crewman, Liz operated the aircraft guns, directed the pilots when trying to land close to casualties in dust clouds, advised the team both on board and back at base, and saw first-hand the impact of war coming over the helicopter ramp.
Liz thought she was one of the lucky ones who had somehow avoided being affected by what she had witnessed during her time with MERT, but after a year of largely being on her own during lockdown, and not being able to decompress over a beer or two with understanding friends and colleagues – Liz was pushed into a seemingly unescapable hole of despair – until she felt there was only one solution left.
Liz has asked us to share her story in the hope it will help others.
In Liz's words...
"Some of you know, but many don’t……This day last year I was lying in a coma on life support having taken a massive overdose to try and end my life. One year on, I hope that my story may help others.
The pics and posts (on Facebook) are the days running up to and after my overdose. No one knew how bad a place I was in, not my best friend who I had seen everyday nor even my brother who had been living with me. I had continued to smile and say everything was fine until wed 12th Aug when I woke up and felt like I had been kidnapped by the grim reaper. I was in a tunnel headed only one way.
I spent the day planning how best to end my life, wrote my suicide note and tidied my flat before taking 95 Amytreptyline at midnight. The finer points of that day I can tell you face to face but despite a cry for help that afternoon to the GP I ended up with enough drugs being prescribed to kill myself. The only vague memory I have after that was someone telling me not to go to sleep. I did. But thankfully the NHS saved me.
I have spent the last 12 months in the Veteran counselling system putting my life and head back together. It’s still a battle but I’m getting there.
The two things I want to come out of this though; I put on the BEST front and hid exactly what was going on in my head. Please talk. And if you feel yourself headed into that same tunnel call someone, call me. And if you think someone just isn’t quite right, ask TWICE how they are.
But most importantly. I always thought suicide was the worst thing a person could do. A coward’s way out leaving carnage behind. That day I thought of my family and Anna and how selfish I was giving up my life when she had hers taken away. But until you are in that tunnel you will never realise how powerless you feel…. you cant get out of it, you just keep sliding down.
For anyone reading this who has lost someone to suicide I need you to know, there is NOTHING you could have done to change what they did. Please take some comfort from that, from someone who has been there, no one could have stopped me doing what I did that day, I’m just glad I’m here to tell my story".
Liz now works as the Wounded Injured Soldiers Representative for the UK disability flying charity Aerobility and helps veterans with their recovery by enabling them to fly an aeroplane. She is a runner, a cyclist, has competed in Iron Man competitions, and is a genuine beautiful sparkly person - we are blessed to call her our friend. Keep going from strength to strength Hun, love you x
Due to our personal links with the UK Armed Forces, and the impact of the recent situation in Afghanistan on the mental health of our military veterans, we have chosen the charity Help for Heroes to be the focus of our fundraising.
Help for Heroes provides support for wounded veterans, both regular and reserve personnel, who have suffered physical or psychological injuries or illness during Service, or as a result of Service. The Charity also helps close family and dependents.
(Learn more about Help for Heroes here: UK Armed Forces & Military Veterans Charity | Help for Heroes)
Throughout the year, we will be taking part in various events and collecting for the charity via our JustGiving page. Why not join us and help us raise much needed funds for this amazing charity. Click on the link below to donate:
To hear more about Liz's time on MERT you can listen to the podcast she did with Conflict Chronicles