Speaking out about mental health: Nathan’s story

Nathan is currently deployed as part of the Cyprus Joint Police Unit in Episkopi Garrison. Over the past few years, he has dealt with mental health issues triggered by his wife’s PTSD, following the traumatic birth of their twin daughters, Charlotte and Millie, in 2016.

Whilst away on my third deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and Oman, I suffered with my own mental health issues. I dealt with anxiety and helplessness and this is because my wife was diagnosed with PTSD resulting from the birth of our twins.

After their 10-week premature birth, the twins were in and out of hospital every month and there were times when we feared that Charlotte, in particular, might not make it, but thankfully our family were fairly close by to support us.

Image of two babies in hospital beds
The twins in intensive care

When their birthday approached, my wife was getting flashbacks of the pregnancy, the weeks leading up to it and the weeks after, when our twins were in intensive care.

During Nathan’s deployment, he was far from his family support network, and the previously ‘stronger’ twin, Millie, had respiratory issues and was admitted to hospital.

This caused a host of problems, like what to do with the other twin, our son Noah and the dogs? This all affected me massively. I changed as a person, my personality and normal behaviour ceased to exist, and I withdrew.

The main reason was that I wasn’t there to support my wife, and do all those things that have been my responsibility since they were born. I felt useless, like my life on operations was no way near as chaotic as my wife’s. I felt bad for having a good day, and I started using my hobby of functional fitness training as a way of punishing myself, making myself sick during workouts.

My Senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) and my friend on tour decided that enough was enough and sat me down to talk about what was going on. I’m not usually one for asking for help or telling individuals my problems, but we had a good talk and I found it very useful to offload my stresses and worries.

Then I thought, ‘I wonder who else is suffering, but too proud to ask for help’? So I made it my mission to change this and in November 2019, in line with ‘Movember’, I rowed 60 kilometres on a Concept2 rower and raised £839 for men’s health. Last year, I ran 60 kilometres and raised £945.

Nathan holds up a whiteboard with a messaging asking people to donate to his 60000m row
Nathan’s fundraising initiative for Movember

I was on several social media platforms talking about my story and those videos have been watched over 12,000 times. I received so many nice messages on the back of that and I hope to raise even more much-needed awareness for the issue.

Every year around the twins’ birthday things can be difficult, but we now know how to cope with it better.

Our support network in Cyprus is now excellent, we have plenty of good friends and SSAFA — the Forces charity — have been a huge support to my wife.

Image of Nathan, his wife, twin daughters, son and dogs.
Nathan and his family.

I don’t want people to be embarrassed about speaking up. Men in particular are not very good at this, but that must change.

Speaking about a problem can help you so much — I know it certainly did for me.

Visit www.headfit.org to access a range of tools to support mental fitness.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here👇



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