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Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan killed himself after refusing help for his PTSD

05 Sep 2019 Daily Mail Online

Warrant Officer Robert 'Rab' McAvoy (pictured) was found dead in woodland near Dorchester 

A Royal Engineers soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan took his own life after refusing to seek help for his PTSD over fears it would damage his career, an inquest has heard.  

Warrant Officer Robert 'Rab' McAvoy, 39, 'wasn't the same person' when he returned from his second tour of Afghanistan in 2014, and was put on anti-depressants after he attempted to take his own life in August that year.

He came off the medication and refused to seek any help for his PTSD from the Army's welfare team because he didn't want to be 'downgraded' for mental health problems.

His widow, Emma, said he feared it would affect his chances of promotion in the future.

Then last year WO McAvoy's father died followed by the untimely death of his older brother, John.

He declined more help from the Army's welfare service and on March 26 this year disappeared after leaving his home on a military base at Bovington, Dorset, to go and get a haircut.

His wife Emma later received 'concerning' text messages from her husband that prompted her to call the police and report him missing.

A friend, a fellow Army officer who was not named, discovered WO McAvoy's car parked in a clearing in a secluded woodland near Dorchester, about eight miles from his home.

His body was found a short distance away. A post mortem examination confirmed the cause of death as hanging.

The inquest into WO McAvoy's tragic case comes days after the Government announced the setting up of an Office for Veterans' Affairs to help ex-service men and women get access to medical treatment, training and housing.

His wife Emma received 'concerning' text messages from her 39-year-old husband that prompted her to call the police and report him missing 

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And although the Dorset coroner found the Army didn't do anything wrong in WO McAvoy's case, one Army veteran said his death was avoidable.

Military Cross winner Trevor Coult, who now campaigns for ex-service men and women to get the right support and help, said: 'Unfortunately I'd say it is common knowledge that if you ask for help from the Army it will affect your career.

'You're taken away from your post, mollycoddled and looked after but it does impact on your chance of promotion, so I do understand Warrant Officer McAvoy's thought process.

Mrs McAvoy said her husband of 11 years went to Iraq in 2003 and 2008 and Afghanistan in 2013 

'I know first hand because a guy I served with in 2009 has only recently been promoted one rank in ten years because he asked for help.

'The MoD don't do enough to help people in my opinion and this case was so avoidable.'

WO McAvoy served in the Royal Engineers for more than 20 years and carried out two tours of Iraq and two of Afghanistan.

After returning from his second trip to Afghanistan the father-of-one was put on a six month course of the anti-depressant Sertraline by the Army's welfare team in Germany, where he was stationed at the time.  

But when the couple moved back to the UK the veteran solider refused to go back on the medication or seek any more help.

Mrs McAvoy said: 'I could tell if he hadn't taken one of the tablets.

'He wanted to come off them because he didn't want to be downgraded for mental health problems.

'He loved being a soldier. He didn't want it to affect any promotion in the future and that's why he took himself off (anti-depressants).

'He would have presented and said he was fine but he wasn't fine.'

Mr McAvoy was found at Crossways (pictured), which is near Dorchester, after he was reported missing

Mrs McAvoy said her husband of 11 years went to Iraq in 2003 and 2008 and Afghanistan in 2013.

She said up until that point he was 'really fit physically and mentally'.

But speaking about his mood and mental health following the second trip to Afghanistan in 2014, Mrs McAvoy said: 'Our marriage was coming to a breakdown.

'He was quite needy when he was out there the second time and he just wasn't the same person when he came back.'

Prime Minister creates Office for Veterans' Affairs to offer personnel lifelong support

Earlier this year the creation of a new Office for Veterans' Affairs was announced, to be staffed by officials from the Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence and others as necessary.

The Office's goal is to coordinate and drive Government policy on veterans' welfare, including 'mental and physical health, education and employment'.

In July it was announced that Minister for the Cabinet Office Oliver Dowden, and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer would immediately begin work to establish the structure of the new Office, reporting progress to the Prime Minister by September 30.

It was also announced that Oliver Dowden would jointly chair the Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board with the Defence Secretary, to 'ensure no veteran is disadvantaged because of their service'.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said it was 'a stain on our national conscience that any veteran who has served should be abandoned by the country they have fought so courageously to protect'.

He said it was 'absolutely right' that the Government should do all it can to offer lifelong support for veterans.

Johnny Mercer said: 'For the first time in its history, the UK Government will have an Office for Veterans’ Affairs to pull together all functions of government to ensure that when our Armed Forces personnel leave service, they are looked after in the manner that they deserve.'

WO McAvoy started to see the welfare services in Germany, while his wife prepared to move back to the UK.

However he overdosed on 'tablets and alcohol' in an attempt to take his own life and was put on the course of anti-depressants.

Mrs McAvoy added: 'It was explained to me Rabbles had PTSD.

'It could have dated back to 2003 because it can take years to come in.'

She said her husband seemed 'sad' after the deaths of his father and brother but threw himself into work, adding that 2019 was going to be 'a good year' for them.

Mrs McAvoy fought back tears as she told the Bournemouth inquest of the evening her husband disappeared.

She said: 'He came home, gave me a kiss and asked what was for dinner.

'He got changed and came back downstairs, said ''put the pasta on, I'll text when I'm leaving Dorchester'' (where he said he was going for a haircut).

'He gave me a kiss, patted the dog, and that was it.'

Giving evidence at the inquest, PC Simon Rogers, who searched the wooded area where WO McAvoy's car was found, said: 'I saw off in the distance a body hanging from a tree.

'He had been dead for some time.'

Following WO McAvoy's death, the Army reviewed his case and produced a report known as a 'learning account'.

In a statement, the Army's unit welfare officer Amanda Walmsley said WO McAvoy was directed to the welfare team following the death of his father, but did not make contact.

Mr Middleton recorded a verdict of suicide by hanging.

He said: 'I don't believe the Army have made any error. They have gone through very thoroughly what happened.'

Lieutenant Colonel Rotchell, who represented the British Army at the inquest, added: 'I would like to pass on again on behalf of the Ministry of Defence and the Army our condolences.'

  • For confidential support, visit samaritans.org or call them on 116123 

Original Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7430629/Veteran-served-Iraq-Afghanistan-killed-refusing-help-PTSD.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

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