Peter Southern's road to improved mental and physical wellbeing

Thursday 24 August 2017

A former Sergeant Major has spoken out about how support from a Help for Heroes Recovery Centre has helped boost his mental and physical wellbeing.

Peter Southern joined the military in 1967 “I wanted to help my mum and I wanted to make an honest living so I joined the Army. My father died when I was younger and I wanted to be able to help support my family.”

He went onto serve for 27 years in the Royal Artillery. He undertook operational tours in Oman, Northern Ireland and the Falkland’s.

After injuring his knee whilst training for Northern Ireland, Peter had to have cartilage removed but continued to solider on - determined to finish his service.

He retired from the military in 1993, and began to work as a social support worker.

Helping those with mental health difficulties and getting involved in caring for the community was very rewarding. Peter said, “I really enjoyed helping others, I was involved in the community which was very rewarding - it felt like the Army.”

Unfortunately, like the Army, the difficulties of the job took its toll and in 2007, Peter had a breakdown “It was a very dark time, my knee was still very painful and I could only stand up and sit down but no other movement. I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t see anything that gave me enjoyment.”

Peter was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) shortly after: “All of the small incidents that happened during my military career didn’t seem much at the time, but they all added up and I went downhill.”

He was introduced to Help for Heroes, and after meeting with a Help for Heroes Occupational Therapist he was referred to a rehabilitation clinic to help with his knee pain.

Help for Heroes Recovery Centre Tedworth House offered Peter accommodation so he could attend the Wessex Rehab Centre in Salisbury Hospital for the duration of the intensive three-week physio course.

“I started off the treatment with just 15% bend in my knee and ended up with 56% at the end of the treatment. I’ve gone from having to use two sticks to walking with one stick and I’m moving so much better.

The help Peter has received has not only helped him physically but has also boosted his wellbeing: “The intervention and input I’ve had has changed how I feel about myself. Instead of feeling useless, seeing no future and having no joy in my life - I am now able to give something back to others.”

“I still have set backs, but I’ve said I will never step back.”

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