Former army medic who survived suicide bomb helps NHS workers fight stress

Camilla reveals she had to shout 'thank you' to NHS workers

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Andrew Taylor says health workers fighting to save lives during the pandemic suffer the same levels of fear and anxiety as troops in combat zones. Ex-warrant officer Andrew, who spent nearly 25 years in the military, suffered serious back injuries 13 years ago when his car was blown up in Afghanistan’s perilous Helmand province. He also suffered post-traumatic stress after being medically discharged from the Army. Andrew, 49, is now part of a team using Forces’ know-how to help health staff and their families handle the pandemic pressure.

Military charity Help for Heroes is providing tips to spot signs of stress, depression and anxiety through its Lessons from the Battlefields advice portal.

Andrew said: “All the emotions felt by our frontline NHS during this last year mirror those of forces in combat.

“They are not getting shot at maybe, but they are going into a relentless environment every day.

“People have been frightened, gone through the emotions of anxiety, nervousness and adrenaline rush. They have the obvious upset of continual losses, the likes of what have not been seen before with all these people doing their best.

“And there’s also that fear factor of what happens when they go home – do they infect their families with the virus?”

Andrew joined the Medical Corps at 18 and completed 10 tours of duty, beginning with Kuwait in the first Gulf War.

He said: “I’ve dealt with mass casualty incidents from the Balkans to Afghanistan – and they are incidents.

“The tension is immense. You have got to be really on your mark, paying attention, ready to react to anything. It never really relaxes. It just heightens senses all the time and you get into a state of mind, along with the rest of the people you work with.”

The father of two said just like embattled NHS workers, soldiers learn to look after each other both on the battlefield and off-duty.

He said: “The respite comes from looking after each other in moments of downtime, taking time to talk back normality.”

Vikki McAuley, who cared for her RAF veteran father when he suffered post-traumatic stress, has helped compile Lessons from the Battlefield.

The 27 year old, who gave pointers on how NHS families can spot and deal with mental illness, said: “You have to have a plan in place for when that happens.

“It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I can’t fix my dad and that I couldn’t help him until he was ready.

“Being able to pass on those strategies will save people a bit of time and experimentation and stress.

“In the military community we are more used to talking about this stuff because it’s been out in the open for a long time.

“NHS workers are under so much pressure, a lot of families haven’t had time to think about it.”

● Visit Lessons from the Battlefield at https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/what-we-do/lessons-from-the-battlefield/support-for-loved-ones/

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