MilitaryNews.co.uk can report that Mental-health chiefs have admitted failing a former soldier whose family say he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when he committed suicide just over two years ago.
Dad-of-three Aidan Knight joined the Army aged 17 and within two years found himself serving on the front line with 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Iraq.
He left the Army after five years, telling his mother he had seen “too much death”. He was also shattered by the tragic loss of his brother George in 2012.
Aged 29, in April 2015 – Aidan hanged himself from a tree in parkland after phoning his mum to say he was “going to his brother’s party”.
A coroner recorded a suicide verdict last week but commented that PTSD could not be diagnosed after death.
The Sunday People’s ‘Save Our Soldiers Campaign’ is demanding the Government improves help for our trauma-stricken troops. Official figures show that one serviceman, woman or veteran commits suicide almost every two weeks. Nearly 400 took their lives between 1995 and 2014.
Aidan’s mum Angie, feels the NHS was too slow to pick up and act on his cries for help – and claims a chance to diagnose PTSD was missed.
Angie said: “I think Aidan was a tortured soul after he came back but he bottled it all in and never spoke of what he did out there.
“He’d just say he had seen terrible things. He would have nightmares and cry out in his sleep. His two long-term partners said he had depression, with outbursts of anger and tears.” In six months from 2014-2015 Aidan took an overdose of Diazepam.
Desperate for help, he went to A&E at East Surrey Hospital on March 5, 2015. A psychiatric nurse diagnosed PTSD symptoms and five days later the community mental health team assessed him. It took till March 26 to confirm his referral to a mental health practitioner.
During that time his GP prescribed him anti-depressants for his erratic behaviour. But his practitioner was on holiday till April 8 and he was not reassigned to another case worker. In the early hours of April 8 Aidan’s body was found at Tilgate Park in Crawley.
Angie said: “The medical people knew he’d been in Iraq and should have considered PTSD as a cause of his depression.” She revealed that before his suicide call she tried to ring emergency mental health professionals but was routed to a 9-5 answering machine.
Sussex Partnership NHS Trust’s clinical director Dr Brian Solts said: “We investigated the circumstances of Mr Knight’s death and made changes to our services as a result.
“Changes include strengthening our community team by having a person dedicated to managing the referral process.
“We are also reviewing and improving our risk assessment process and making sure our acute hospitals have the contact numbers for our services if a person needs help outside working hours.
“We’re sorry this did not happen for Mr Knight and offer condolences to his family. We assure them we have learned from this tragic case.”
The family’s lawyers have lodged a civil claim for compensation against health chiefs for neglect on behalf of Aidan’s children.
In the Sunday People last week ex-Army chief General Lord Dannatt blasted the Government for failing to tackle PTSD adequately.
An MOD Spokesperson said: “This Government has made mental health support both in and out of the services a top priority.
“Military medical practices provide out-of-hours medical support and are able to arrange emergency admission of personnel whenever necessary.
“The relatively small number of Service personnel and veterans who suffer from acute mental health episodes can access a high standard of medical treatment out of hours, 24 hours a day, wherever it is needed. We ensure this by working through a variety of different organisations, including the NHS and Service charities.”