A former army medic who suffered severe stress following a tour of Iraq chose one of the most public places imaginable to have his head shaved in aid of TASC The Ambulance Staff Charity and two other good causes.
And the man given the job of completely shaving Richard Mearns’ head was celebrity hairdresser Michael Douglas of BBC’s The One Show fame after the combat veteran’s assistance dog, Ziggy, messaged him on Twitter!
Richard, aged 37, from Croydon in London, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2009 after previously serving in Iraq in 2003 during what later became known as the second Gulf War.
As a combat medic in a conflict zone, Richard was exposed to the full consequences of war during which he and his colleagues treated a number of seriously injured people, as well as having to deal with a number of fatalities, all of which led to his PTSD.
TASC, which will receive more than £500 as a result of Richard’s head shave at Charing Cross railway station, offers a range of 1 to 1 counselling and psychological well-being support. The two other charities to benefit from the sacrifice of Richard’s full head of ginger-coloured hair are Veterans with Dogs and Heads Together, a mental health charity.
Richard, who received Ziggy in 2016, said:
“It was intended to be just a haircut and it just snowballed from there. I thought about how I could raise money at the same time, so I decided to go one step further and have my head shaved for charity. I deliberately grew it for two months to make sure there was enough to cut off.”
“I did a lot of research around different charities which supported mental health, 999 and armed forces charities because, as well as being a combat medic, I also used to be a police officer. So, once I collated a list of six I put them to a vote on Twitter and Instagram and that resulted in three charities being chosen, namely TASC, Veterans with Dogs and Heads Together.”
Civil servant Richard, who served for five years as a combat medic at units including 3 Close Support Medical Regiment and the Grenadier Guards among others, is full of praise of his golden Labrador Ziggy for saving his life.
“I probably wouldn’t be here now if not for Ziggy,” he says. “He interrupts my flashbacks, reduces anxiety and gives me confidence. He has made such a difference to my life. Ziggy came during a very dark time in my life. I had considered suicide on a number of occasions but, fortunately, I was able to see a chink of light and Ziggy bounded in to show me the way.”
In fact, Ziggy is credited with persuading Michael Douglas to take on Richard’s head shave.
“Ziggy tweeted him and basically said ‘do you fancy cutting my veteran’s hair?’ and Michael responded within a couple of hours to say ‘yes’. It took place at around 3pm so at one point there were 30-odd people watching who were interested in what was going on and in the charities I was raising money for. This was the first time I’ve done anything like this. It was also amazing to see my nine-year-old daughter Lexie actively interacting with the crowd and spreading the message that she so passionately supports and, in doing so, makes me so proud.”
“It was a bit of a shock after my head had been completely shaved. I had a thick set of ginger hair before the cut, very thick and hot, but the day it came off it started raining. It’s coming back now so that’s good. I want to show that even with mental health problems it is possible to learn to cope and turn the negatives into positives and push your own boundaries. This could be something as simple as going to a shop and getting a coffee. I feel that everything is possible and the key is to not suffer in silence.”
Anyone interested in ‘following’ Ziggy on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram can do so by searching the name @AssistanceZiggy
Ambulance staff and their families seeking support can contact the TASC Support line on 0800 1032 999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For general inquiries, call 0247 7987 922, email email@example.com or visit www.theasc.org.uk
For regular updates, follow TASC on Twitter (@TASCharity) and Facebook (@TASC The Ambulance Staff Charity).