Plymouth veteran: 'You can have PTSD and still be a person'

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A Royal Navy veteran from Plymouth says the portrayal of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in films and TV is stopping some people asking for help.

Annette Laurie served 26 years with the Naval Reserve and Royal Navy but after her service she was diagnosed with PTSD.

Mrs Laurie said: "It's there and I think about it but I am not nuts and I am not crazy and I still live a normal life. You can have PTSD and still be a person."

Mrs Laurie joined the Naval Reserve in 1984, aged 24. But during her service she was bullied for three years, as well as being the target of two suicide bombers in Dubai and suffering two family tragedies.

She believes the media's stereotyping can be dangerous for people who need help.

Mrs Laurie said: "Help for Heroes got me the help and started me on the journey back but it was very clear that a lot of people think veterans are going to be drug addicts or that I must drink gallons of wine every day or that I am going to sit in the corner and cry a lot or if I hear a loud bang in the supermarket I am going to drop to the floor. I am not saying loud noises don't affect some people, they do, but it doesn't mean that we are what the TV tells people we are."

In research carried out by YouGov, UK adults were asked for the first word or phrase they thought of when they were told to picture a veteran with PTSD. Nearly 60% of respondents said 'burnt out'. Other common responses were: 

  • Unbalanced – 35%

  • Danger to themselves and others – 30 %

  • Explosive – 29%

Help for Heroes says this perception is having a serious impact on people's lives. PTSD, it says, is similar to many other mental health conditions where people can recover and lead a positive, successful life.  

Annette Laurie looking back at her photos. Credit: ITV News

Mrs Laurie said: "My perceptions of people with PTSD had been gleaned from the media, now I am not saying that the media shouldn't have good storylines because we all like a good movie but it then stops people like me and like a lot of people I know going then and asking for help. We don't want the label but then also because of what the media have put out we don't think we deserve the label because we are not injured enough or we are not hurt enough or we are not addicted enough or violent enough."

"If the media want to portray veterans, go to the organisations that look after veterans with PTSD and ask them 'have you got anything that can help us portray them realistically and truthfully?', because we are not all mad, bad and sad."

Help for Heroes has now produced guidelines to encourage the media to develop fair and balanced storylines.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, please visit the Help for Heroes website for more information.