WARNING: Graphic photos. Ex-soldier Perry Tatler shared these images as he tells of his ordeal coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Harrowing pictures show injured former soldier Perry Tatler bloodied with a head full of stitches and a broken back as he lies in a hospital bed.
The 29-year-old father-of-two wanted to share the images, which many people might find upsetting, not to help tell of the story of his service to his country as an infantryman in Afghanistan – where he ended up getting shot in both legs – but to highlight an altogether more disturbing event in his life.
These latest injuries – his broken and battered body – were not inflicted by an Afghan militant sniper or roadside bomber.
These injuries … he inflicted on himself.
Perry tried to take his own life by jumping in front of a train.
He survived despite the train dragging him the length of three carriages down the track while witnesses described how they saw his head "bounce off the front of the train".
Here, he is telling the story of that fateful day when he felt he could no longer cope with the mental traumas that had been plaguing him and, he said, he gave in to his “demons”.
He said he had hit such a desperately low point following a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that he could see no other choice but to end his life.
Earlier that day had seemed like any ordinary Saturday for a family man.
Perry had taken his children to the park like any other dad enjoying a weekend with the kids.
What his family could not have known, however, was that deep in his traumatised mind, Perry had another disturbing intention after catching some fresh air with the kids.
He told how that moment had come after he had long ignored the problems he had been facing and, instead of turning to others for help out of a misguided sense of male pride, he instead shut himself away and began isolating himself from his family.
When he did communicate with his loved ones – it came out as anger.
The problems went on until the day came he could take no more.
Leaving behind his young children after kissing them goodbye for what he thought would be the last time, Perry, a former private in the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, headed to the train station.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon with crowds of weekend travellers milling about waiting for their trains on the platform at Torquay in Devon.
In perhaps one of the most striking descriptions of his ordeal, he said that on that day, he does not think anything at all could have stopped him from attempting to take his own life.
He cannot recall the details of the moment he threw himself off the station platform.
Nor does he have any memory of the commotion around him as people reacted to the horrific scene unfolding in front of them.
His mind was too confused and overcome with feelings of lost hope and despair and he felt like he was in a muddled ‘zone’. He said:
“I don’t even recall seeing anyone at the train station.”
The fact that he survived despite falling into the path of a passing train is an incredible outcome for which he now says he feels “incredibly lucky”.
Perry has shared his ordeal with Forces Network, and a frank interview with BFBS Radio presenters Richard Hatch and Verity Geere, in an effort to warn others that they must seek help if they need it and not to ignore how they are feeling until it is too late like he did, out of pride or any other inwardly directed emotions.
Perry told how a traumatic series of events in his life began two months into a tour in Afghanistan in 2011.
He had served in the Army for five years but it was during a patrol on the front line, out of a forward operating base (FOB), that he was shot, taking a hit in both of his legs.
He said: “It was a routine patrol where we would talk to locals, and then we were heading back to the FOB.
“We had gone over an irrigation ditch and I just got shot through my side.”
His comrades managed to get him out and fly him back to Camp Bastion for emergency medical care.
“I got amazing treatment for about three or four days and then they flew me back to Birmingham where I got further treatment."
Once back in England, he was treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Selly Oak, Birmingham, where he began a long journey back to the kind of recovery that at least allowed him to try to build a new life.
He went through months of rehab that improved his physical health but his mental well-being was not doing so well.
He was medically discharged from the Army two years after his injury in Afghanistan and returned to civilian life.
He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he started to experience mental health problems in the final year of his service but he had been receiving support.
However, he convinced himself he could deal with his issues without help.
He said: “I started getting counselling but I didn’t find it helped.”
He said he was very aware that he was having difficulties, saying: “I was having flashbacks. I was quite angry. Drinking. And my colleagues noticed it as well.”
He told how, once he left the Armed Forces in 2013, he found work with his local council but in 2017, he found security work at HM Prison Exeter and moved to Devon with family.
For a while, he returned to what seemed like an ordinary family life but his issues with mental health bubbled away under the surface, often coming out in angry outbursts.
His state of mind deteriorated following the Christmas of 2017. He said:
“I never got cross with my children. I separated myself from the children, I shut myself away, didn’t want to go out.”
His cycle of just coping but displaying worrying behaviours that he now recognises as unsolved issues with his mental health - such as anger, isolation, feelings of hopelessness – eventually took its toll and he hit the lowest point of his life.
Describing his state of mind on the day he tried to take his own life, he said:
“I don’t think anything would have stopped me. The demons got to me and I was in that frame of mind where I saw no way out.”
He said that he recognises now that there is a positive way forward, no matter how low you feel, but that you need help to see you through the difficult process, adding:
“Being a man I didn’t want to seek help because it was my pride.”
But, he said, there is help out there if you reach out to find it.
He is now on a mission to reach out to the world in an effort to help others who might be experiencing the kind of mental traumas that he has endured and he is using his ordeal to urge others to seek help if they feel they are battling mental health issues. He said:
“I think what I need to get out there is that it’s okay to not be okay.”
He said he has had a mixed reaction now that he’s in a recovery stage and talking openly about his experience.
“I’ve had a lot of support from family and friends and I’ve had a lot of support from the public. The Army needs to do more.
“I’ve also had a backlash as well – people feeling sorry for the train drivers and the people who witnessed it. I understand that.”
Perry said that one woman, who had been standing near him on the station platform with her five-year-old daughter, had been in contact with him since the incident.
He said: "I apologised to her. She said there was no need to apologise and said 'I just want to know that you're okay'."
He said he has now been in touch with her many times since she contacted him and she has been talking to him most days to make sure he is all right.
He said: "It's been heartwarming."
He has called on everyone to reach out to those who they think might be showing signs of troubling mental health behaviour, even if, on the surface, they seem to be coping.
He said: “If you know someone who has served in the Army or any forces, you need to ask them if they’re okay, if they need to talk.”
He said people need to look out for signs in people that may be displaying behaviours associated with a mental health condition.
“Are they angry? Are they doing things that they never used to do?”
He said angry outbursts, shutting themselves away, drinking, gambling, are all signals that someone might not be dealing well with their own mental health.
Describing how he felt to have survived after trying to take his own life, he said:
“I feel incredibly lucky. I’m glad I did survive.
“I just want to get my story out there now and that there is help out there if you find it.”
Perry said he wanted to share the graphic images of him in hospital to help get the message out that there is help out there even if you have been through an ordeal as dramatic as his.
"If I can help to save just one person, then it's worth talking about it like this."
He said that as soon as he ended up in hospital, he was seen by a mental health team, and he was put in touch with SSAFA – the Armed Forces charity formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – which in turn put him in touch with his local veterans’ service and he is now getting the help he needs.
He was initally taken to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth following the incident at the train station.
He spent a month receiving intensive care medical treatment in Plymouth before he was transferred to Newhaven Polyclinic near Brighton in Sussex, which specialises in physiotherapy among other treatments, and which is near to where his family lived before moving to Devon.
He has been having a two to three-hour counselling session every week, with help from his local veterans' service, and he is getting help in finding housing to help him restart his life.
He said all of this support was helping him turn his life around.
Physically, he said he is also coping well and physiotherapy was helping him recover from his injuries.
“I up on crutches – I got told I was never going to walk again – but it was determination. I wasn’t going to give up.”
Perry has now been in hospital for six months and is waiting to find suitable housing before he is discharged.
He said his focus has been on trying to help others in the hope that others would not have to endure the same ordeal as his.
“If you feel you are suffering from PTSD, you need to seek help because there is help out there.”
He advised that people turn to a charity like Combat Stress, or the Royal British Legion, or welfare officers for those who are still serving.
He is also in a much more positive frame of mind and that now he has a second chance in life, he was “looking forward to being the best Dad I can to my children.”
Perry is also looking to the future, a feeling that might have been lost to him on that distressing day at Torquay train station.
From now on, he plans to live a full a life as he possibly can.
A MoD spokesperson has responded to Perry's story, saying:
"We take the wellbeing of our personnel extremely seriously and we fund research so we can continue to improve the way we support them.
"Military personnel receive stress management training before, during and after operational deployments, and consultant psychiatrists are available by phone 24/7, should individuals require support.
"We encourage anyone struggling to come forward and seek help, including through our two 24 hour helplines, and veterans can access specialist medical care through the NHS."
A helpline to provide round-the-clock support to forces personnel dealing with mental health issues has been launched after funding by the Ministry of Defence.
Anyone who needs help, advice or support with mental health issues can call the Military Mental Health Helpline on 0800 323 4444.