A Carnoustie veteran has formed a support group to help his former comrades-in-arms who have been affected by the horrors of war.
The group Inner Battles has been set up by Calum Owens with the aim of making it a charity which will support people who have suffered mental trauma, particularly in the uniformed services.
A former member of 29 Commando Regiment and Hostile Environment Private Consultant, Calum has fought his own demons in the form of a Post Traumatic Stress Injury, with the help of his family and friends and now wants to give others in the same situation a path to follow.
For Calum his battle with PTSD, which he is helping to campaign to have changed to Post Traumatic Stress Injury, came to a head after being injured in Iraq and then virtually housebound during his recovery.
He said: “Six years ago I was diagnosed with a Post Traumatic Stress Injury.
“I returned from working private security in Iraq with a pretty severe back injury for which I had to get surgery.
“To not be able to work brought it all home, to somebody who feels they were born to do that job it brought out the symptoms of PTSI.
“We had assessments every three months in that job and you just lied your face off during them.
“The way we were built, you don’t talk about your feelings, you don’t say when you are struggling emotionally when your livelihood depends on being able to function.”
On his return to work Calum was immediately diagnosed with PTSI and stopped from working, his then relationship fell apart and from there his life started to deteriorate.
He said: “I made the decision to move back home, although I’m from Cumnock I’ve always thought of Arbroath as home, that’s where I was stationed, that’s where all my friends were.
“I made a conscious decision to come home and end my life. I distanced myself from my family and friends and went so far as to get a flat at the cliffs.
“Every day I was trying to come up with a reason to not step off those cliffs, and thoughts of my family and my daughters stopped me.”
Calum eventually met his future wife Ailis in Carnoustie, went into therapy for three years, got back into sport, coaching rugby and martial arts and recently became the town’s first professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
He said: “With the help of friends, family and my wife Ailis, I turned my life around.”
However, the suicide of two former comrades Christian Wynand Fourie and David Davis, dealt a severe blow and prompted Calum to form the Inner Battles support group in their honour.
Davis was the best friend of Calum’s older brother John, himself a decorated soldier. Calum said: “Things like that really knock you back, losing someone that close and it was totally out of the blue.
“He was undiagnosed with PTSI. he came back, settled into civilian life, got a job and nobody saw the struggle he was going through.
“I’m a firm believer that anyone involved in the services is going to have some kind of mental scarring.
“Dealing with Davie’s suicide and preparing for my first fight was difficult. I couldn’t go to the funeral on the Thursday and be in the right frame of mind to fight on the Saturday. It was dreadful not to be there for my family and that’s when I knew I wanted to do something.”
Fourie’s death was also a shock. Calum continued: “His suicide really, really knocked me sideways. He was the strongest man physically and emotionally I have ever met. He was a mountain of a man. He was so knowledgeable of the job and a genuinely nice guy. Especially when you don’t think you are strong enough and then you see someone you believe is the strongest man in the world and it makes you think ‘what chance have I got?’”
The aim of Inner Battles is to give people suffering from depression, anxiety and other forms of PTSI a contact to reach out to, with Calum acting as an expert patient who can pass on some of his coping mechanisms and lend a sympathetic ear. In addition Calum is a firm believer in the value of exercise as part of mental well-being and as an experienced trainer with his own gym that will also form part of the support.
Calum’s wife Ailis will also be onboard supporting families of sufferers.
He added: “There’s no support for families. They don’t know how to cope with depression, At home your family are walking on eggshells because they don’t know how best to cope with it, and that’s going to be a big part of it as well.”
According to Calum the response has been encouraging in the short while since Inner Battles was launched. He said: “The support we got within a day was incredible. people I don’t know have reached out offering to fundraise and volunteer for us.”
To find out more visit the Inner Battles Facebook page, donate at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/inner-battles or support their first fundraiser, The Forfar Firewalk For The Troops at the West End Social Club on November 27.