“TASC basically saved my life, no two ways about it. I am alive because TASC answered the phone.”
Martyn, Paramedic – Wellbeing Officer, Yorkshire
Martyn came to TASC when he was experiencing suicidal thoughts and didn’t know where else to turn. TASC was there in his time of need and provided immediate support until he was able to receive long-term help through his GP service. Martyn is now back at work and using his experiences to support his colleagues. Here’s Martyn’s story.
“I’ve been employed in the ambulance service for over 20 years and qualified as a Paramedic in 2016. Three years later I had a heart attack out on a job, and while I love helping people, I decided I could no longer work on the front line and went on alternative duties, which is how I ended up as a Senior Clinical Adviser in the Emergency Operation Centre
While working in this role, I opened an email about a colleague who had passed away. I knew him well, I knew his plans for when he was retired, and it was all gone now. That email broke the camel’s back and I really started to struggle with my mental health.
It wasn’t just one thing, it was the multiple drip, drip, drip of the things I had experienced in my years in the ambulance service, the 10 years in mountain rescue before that and other events. I kept seeing the faces of the people I tried to help and was constantly asking myself the question of why. I ended up off work sick as I couldn’t face coming back to the station; I couldn’t even face looking at the uniform I’m immensely proud to wear.
“It wasn’t just one thing, it was the multiple drip, drip, drip of the things I had experienced in my years in the ambulance service, the 10 years in mountain rescue before that and other events.”
A little while later, I was diagnosed with PTSD by my GP and went through the assessments to get counselling help, however the usual 15 sessions they offered weren’t going to be enough for me and they referred me for more intense support. However, due to a mix-up I got lost in the system for a while and wasn’t getting the support I needed.
I started to shut down and I wasn’t in a good place. My mental health was through the floor, and it felt like there was a demon on my shoulder constantly whispering ‘you’re not good enough.’ It got to a point I was welcoming death. I couldn’t see the good in anything and I couldn’t explain what was going on because I didn’t understand it myself. All I knew is that I went from being an active ambulance worker who was confident and happy, and then seemingly overnight it went to complete rubbish. There were so many times when I thought ‘I might as well go and chuck myself off a bridge.’
During one of my darkest times my wife came home in tears because she wasn’t certain I was still going to be alive. That gave me the kick I needed. I didn’t know where else to go for help, but I’d heard that TASC support ambulance staff, so I decided to give them a call. I spoke to a lovely woman who said someone would give me a call back that day and within an hour I was speaking to their counsellor, David.
I felt like I was on the phone for two hours with David, but I never felt rushed. I was quite manic at the time but he stayed with me and for the first time it felt like I was speaking to someone who got it. It was a wave of relief. David made sure I was safe and then gave me some tips and techniques to help me. My favourite was the wellbeing box, and I still use it today.
“That phone call with TASC was the catalyst for everything and stopped me doing something stupid or what I thought was the only way out. It was the start of my slow recovery.”
That phone call with TASC was the catalyst for everything and stopped me doing something stupid or what I thought was the only way out. It was the start of my slow recovery. TASC pushed to get me counselling support, which the team processed incredibly quickly, and it felt great knowing I could speak or text TASC when I needed to.
TASC basically saved my life, no two ways about it. I am alive because TASC answered the phone.
Ironically, just one day before TASC confirmed they could provide me with counselling, I was contacted by my local psychological team about the referral my GP made and that they could start my open-ended counselling sessions next week. As I was in a somewhat better place and now had a clear path forward, I asked TASC to use their counselling to help one of my fellow ambulance colleagues instead.
Over a year after going off sick, I was back at work and that’s when I joined my trust’s Wellbeing Team so I can use my experiences to support my ambulance family.
” I have good days, bad days, and fantastic days. I’m still batting my PTSD, depression, and anxiety, but now I have the tools to look after myself.”
Compared to the day of that first phone call with TASC, I now feel brilliant. I have good days, bad days, and fantastic days. I’m still batting my PTSD, depression, and anxiety, but now I have the tools to look after myself, and I still use my wellbeing box. I can also recognise when my mental health begins to drop a bit; before my wife and kids used to have to tell me, now I can spot it before anyone else. More importantly, now when my feet hit the floor in the morning the demon knows it hasn’t beaten me yet.”