Wales

L/Sgt Dan Collins death: Girlfriend wants stress disorder help

The girlfriend of a soldier found hanged in Pembrokeshire has called for more help for those suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Welsh Guardsman L/Sgt Dan Collins, 29, was found dead on New Year's Day in a quarry.

Vicky Roach said he faced a "constant battle" after being shot twice and losing two close friends in Afghanistan.

She wants more help for charities helping soldiers.

The Welsh Government said it was working with the Ministry of Defence and the UK Department of Health to improve health services for serving personnel and veterans.

An inquest was opened and adjourned into his death on Wednesday.

Officers were called to Pantmaenog Quarry in Rosebush shortly after 15:00 GMT on New Year's Day.

Dyfed-Powys Police said at the time they were treating the cause of death as "unexplained".

Bomb blasts

In an interview with BBC Wales, Ms Roach said: "What happened on Sunday was not the first attempt - it's been really tough."

She has called for more help for charities like Bridgend-based Healing the Wounds, which aims to help Welsh soldiers suffering from mental issues like PTSD.

"If you lose a leg or an arm - don't get me wrong, that's horrendous - but you deal with it and you move on," she added.

"He couldn't move on, there was no way of him moving on.

"It was a constant battle in his mind every day, and he was fighting this battle.

"If we can just save one soldier in the future it will mean the world to us."

L/Sgt Collins, from Tiers Cross, near Haverfordwest, had served in Helmand Province in Afghanistan where he had lost two of his best friends.

He had also narrowly escaped death, being shot twice and being involved in two bomb blasts.

On one occasion he was shot by a Taliban sniper while on foot patrol with the Welsh Guards.

His life was saved by his body armour. He later later filmed meeting the man who had made the armour to thank him in person.

Journalist and author, Toby Harnden, got to know L/Sgt Collins while researching a book on the Welsh Guards.

He said the soldier had four "absolutely miraculous escapes" from death.

He added: "But the thing that really struck me beyond that - the personal experiences of coming so close to death - was the way that Dan had had to deal with people who were dying or dead.

"And I think that that is the thing that had really eaten away at him."

He said: "It's just very, very hard to comprehend how such a wonderful young man, such a great soldier, such a great character, could get into such a dark place that he felt there was just no way out."

L/Sgt Collins met Ms Roach in February 2010 after returning home from Afghanistan but, although he was "full of life", she started to notice his unusual behaviour.

"There was one incident that I will always remember," she said.

'Screams and shouting'

"We were just walking through Tesco and the big, tall cages that they have, as they're being dragged along, they rattle quite loudly and that scared him, that really shocked him.

"It sounded like gunfire constantly going off. That was the first instance where he dropped to the floor."

There were also nightmares, screams and shouting at night which led to her asking him whether he should seek help.

Ms Roach said the Army was "brilliant" with the support it gave to L/Sgt Collins, and he received regular counselling.

However, he was deeply troubled and found it difficult to talk openly to his family about his experiences, she added.

The Ministry of Defence has said it will not comment.

The Welsh Government said it was working with the Ministry of Defence and the UK Department of Health to improve health services for serving personnel and veterans.

"The Partnership Board is actively working to ensure efficient transfer of personal records from the military to GPs upon cessation of an individual's military service and on more general awareness raising of veterans and service related issues among GPs," a spokesman said.

"All veterans have a right to priority treatment for service-related conditions according to clinical need, and this would apply in mental health services as in the rest of the NHS."

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