How charity helped Dales gunner escape nightmares of war

Mark Allen
Mark Allen

Four years ago Mark Allen was at his wits end, driven to despair by the horrific images imprinted on his brain by his time on the battlefield. After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he sought help from specialist charity Talking2Minds. Here he tells his story in a bid to help others in the same situation....

Having the power to kill at your fingertips is something that most people will never have to know – however it was a burden all too real for Mark Allen when he was on active service with the British Army.

“I was a tank gunner,”, he tells me as we sit in his home in Smedley Street, Matlock.

“I was in a Challenger tank during the first Gulf War.”

Mark explains that it was his job to take out enemy targets, adding: “I was responsible for pulling the trigger.”

The words are simple, but they carry a grave meaning. Even now I can see he is uneasy remembering it, but he forges on in a bid to raise awareness of the charity that helped him – Talking2Minds.

Mark joined the Army as a lad of 18 back in 1988.

During his time in service he was posted to both Northern Ireland and the Gulf.

He left the Army at the age of 22.

“That was when the problems started,” he recalls. “It was nightmares and flashbacks.

“It affected my life quite badly.

“If I heard a car backfire it would take me straight back to Northern Ireland and the Gulf.

“There were also certain smells and certain sounds that would trigger it.”

On leaving the Army he was offered no help to deal with his problem, and had no idea what to do.

“It was back in the early days when it was a case of ‘pull yourself together’,” Mark says.

“My life was becoming unbearable, I was unable to hold a relationship down.”

After years of torture, Mark became suicidal.

He tried to kill himself on two separate occasions.

Finally in 2008 Mark was diagnosed with PTSD.

“It was nice to put a name to my problem,” he recalls.

Bravely, Mark started to look for help to deal with his problem – that was when he found Talking2Minds, a charity founded in 2008 to help people suffering from depression, anxiety, stress and PTSD

He was enrolled onto a course within three weeks.

“The first day I was on a course I slept properly for the first time in about 18 years,” Mark says.

“I met a great set of lads when I was on the course and we have got our own support network.”

Now aged 42, Mark volunteers for Talking2Minds in order to give something back to the charity that helped him so much.

“I don’t want anyone to have to lose their son or daughter to PTSD,” he says.

In a bid to raise money for the charity, Mark abseiled down High Tor, in Matlock Bath, last year, and is in the process of arranging a fund–raising ghost hunt in Derby, which will either take place in September and October.

Further information on the work of the charity Talking2Minds is available by visiting their website at www.talking2minds.co.uk.

Alternatively, people can find out more by calling 0791 7126708, or they can email the support group via info@talking2minds.co.uk