Former Royal Fusilier Steven Collins experienced tragedy when three of his comrades were killed by a roadside bomb while out on patrol in Iraq on his birthday. After leaving the Army, developing post-traumatic stress disorder and suffering a series of personal setbacks, Steven asked The Poppy Factory for help getting back to work. He is now enjoying a fresh start at the Coventry depot of Extreme Hire, a small family business that supplies equipment for working at height.
Steven said: “I wanted to go into the Army since I was a boy. I joined the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers as a Reservist in 2002 at the age 18, and I served in Iraq with the Staffordshire Regiment.
“It had been quite a tough tour in 2005. On the evening of my birthday, July 16th, we were on a routine patrol in Al Amarah when we were hit by a roadside bomb. Sadly, three of my friends who were in the vehicle in front of me were killed: Private Phillip Hewett, 2nd Lieutenant Richard Shearer and Private Leon Spicer.
“We were pulled off the patrol and taken back to camp. We had one day to deal with what had happened and then we were back out on the ground again, we had such a heavy workload.
“It was only when I came home in 2008 that I started becoming a bit withdrawn. My family could tell that something wasn’t right, but they thought I was just getting used to being back home. I put a smile on my face and carried on, and the pressure started to build. I think I knew what was wrong with me, but I was in denial. It took my marriage breaking down for me to realise I needed help.
“Looking back at how things were while I was suffering with PTSD, I don’t think I was easy to live with. I had the classic symptoms – I was quite needy and argumentative. I split with my wife and I wasn’t able to see my daughter, and because of my mental health I wasn’t able to process it all properly. I lost the plot and kept trying to contact my wife, and I ended up getting arrested for harassment and have a restraining order made against me.
Support from The Poppy Factory
“Things started to turn around when I was in a police cell for three days, and all I could think about was what was going on in my life. I lost my job and I didn’t know what to do. I asked for help from the Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, and they helped me begin therapy through Walking With The Wounded. I took a bit of time to gather my thoughts, and after a few weeks I asked if I could get any help to move back into work. That’s when I made contact with The Poppy Factory.
“Rebecca, my employability consultant, got in touch and we had a chat over the phone at first, and then in a café near my house. We had a connection because she served in the Army too, and she grew up very close to me in the West Midlands. Rebecca has a very good knowledge of civvy street. She found me a job to apply for at Extreme Hire and I could see it was an opportunity I had to grasp with both hands, to help me get back to how I used to be as a person.
“This is the job I’ve always wanted. It’s a small family business and they treat everyone like family. If I have any kind of problem I know I can speak to my bosses, Stuart and Andy, and they will deal with it. Every day is different – one day I might be delivering machinery, or I could be operating equipment for customers, working over 100ft in the air alongside all sorts of tradesmen and women. I feel really lucky to be in this position.”
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