Widow of staff sergeant who took his own life after mental health help calls tells of the 'torture' of what happened

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith

A widow has told ITV News of the "torturous" feeling of the "sheer frustration and anger" of not knowing what happened to her husband - a staff sergeant who killed himself after making several pleas for help for his mental health.

Staff Sergeant Jamie Ferguson made a video recording just moments before his death in which he said: "I asked for help but no one was listening, they didn’t understand."

Sammi Ferguson, who had been married to Jamie for more than 13 years, spoke to ITV News about the recording her husband had made before he killed himself, saying he had asked for help.

She said: "He said things were resurfacing in his head all over and over and over again. And he couldn't cope anymore.

"That is very difficult to hear in the video, you can see it in his face - he's a very haunted man."

She added: "He's glassy-eyed, upset, obviously... That's not somebody I recognised as my husband, as my life partner and the father of my children and the decent human being that he was.

"It was like, like a hollow shell. Really.

"That was tough, that was tough viewing really, but I'm also grateful in a way, because I have his last words and I can see him saying them."

SSG Ferguson joined the Army aged 16 and served for more than 20 years. As a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps he went on to serve with the SAS.   

In Afghanistan he was involved in treating the victims of a 2009 attack by a rogue police officer who shot dead three Grenadier Guards and two Royal Military Policemen. 

Mr Ferguson was described as one of the most experienced combat medics saving many lives in his career.

Ms Ferguson also told ITV News how she has been left feeling since her husband's death.

She said: "The sheer frustration and the anger about the not knowing is always worse than knowing. I think you feel in limbo, you can't move on.

"Obviously you can't go back and change anything where you can't move forward either.

"You're stuck in the limbo where someone else, it feels like someone else's holding you there and you can't move forward.

Ms Ferguson added: "You can't strive forward. And I've got, I've got to figure out what my life is without my husband and the father of my children, and I cannot move on and I cannot do that to the best of my ability without knowing exactly what happened when my husband asked for help."

She added: "Families are left in limbo and it's torturous. For anybody, that's been in our position or know how that feels, you can't sleep properly, you can't eat properly, you can't have meaningful conversations with the people that you love, because that is constantly in your mind."

When asked by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith what her message would be for the government she said: "My husband went through many, many traumas, serving his country and his queen. He was proud to do that. It meant an immense amount to him.

"He was proud to serve his country. He was a hero to me, you know he probably wouldn't like that word, but he was dedicated to his country to surface country.

"And I think the MoD need to realise that this is one trauma too many."

Ms Ferguson added: "We've had conflicts in the past in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now, now when most look after these people, we're most, we must put in robust measures to protect their mental health. Like we will protect them with a physical injury, but so important. I think the MoD need to be more clear."

She called for the Ministry of Defence "to be more open and stop trying to do things behind closed doors because that makes people feel excluded and discounted".

She added: "And I won't be excluded or discounted from anything that involves my husband."

Her comments come as ITV News can exclusively reveal the death toll given to us by a Veterans charity, Veterans United Against Suicide, which has been calculating this unofficially in the absence of any official figures.

So far, just this year, there has been an estimated 64 British military suicides (with a fifth who were still serving), bringing the total to well over 200 in almost three years.

Help for Heroes reported 500 coming forward for support with their mental health, a 33% increase on the same period last year (at a time several charities report massive funding cuts and fear future).

In a statement to ITV News, the MoD said: "Our thoughts remain with Mrs Ferguson and her family during this difficult time.

"We take the wellbeing of our Armed Forces extremely seriously and have increased spending on mental health services, and offer a 24-hour mental health hotline for service personnel and their families.

"Next of kin only attend service inquiries in exceptional circumstances and we remain in close contact with Mrs Ferguson regarding her husband’s inquiry."

What to do if you or someone you know needs help:

  • If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.

  • Veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day on 0800 138 1619 for veterans and their families, 0800 323 444 for serving personnel and their families, via text on 07537 404719, or through their website.

  • Veterans' charity SSAFA is available on 0800 731 4880 or through their website.

  • The Government's Veterans' Gateway offers advice and help for veterans seeking support and can be contacted on 0800 802 1212 or through the website.

  • Mind offers a helpline on 0300 123 3393 from 9am to 6pm.

  • Rock 2 Recovery - which helps veterans suffering from stress and their families - can be contacted on 01395 220072 Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm, emailed at Support@rock2recovery.co.uk or through their website.

  • If you have lost a loved one in the military to suicide you can contact Jo Jukes who has created a private support group.