East Boldon veteran opens up on long-term impact of injuries as Help for Heroes highlights health plight of former servicemen and women

A wounded veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan has opened up on the devastating impact of his injuries as Help for Heroes highlights the health struggles facing armed forces personnel for years after they leave service.

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Nick Richardson, 51, from East Boldon, joined the Royal Navy in 1989 and served operations at sea in the Middle East and Far East, land operations in Iraq, and supported operations in Afghanistan.

However, injuries he sustained during his service have left him with nerve damage and he is in constant, debilitating, chronic neuropathic pain.

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His condition led to him being medically discharged from the Royal Navy in 2012, an event which Nick likens to falling off the edge of a cliff.

Nick with his family.Nick with his family.
Nick with his family.

Nick subsequently developed neurological dissociative symptoms, which can make speech and walking very difficult.

He has a left-sided weakness and a tremor when his pain spikes, he’s fatigued or under great duress.

The 51-year-old also suffers from analgesic migraine as a result of long-term use of prescription opioid pain medications.

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He regularly experiences night terrors which can happen at any time, which can be triggered by smell or sound.

Nick Richardson while serving in Iraq.Nick Richardson while serving in Iraq.
Nick Richardson while serving in Iraq.

With his condition worsening, Nick reached out to Help for Heroes where he has accessed support to help his ongoing recovery, offering an understanding ear to listen, and a safe haven when times get really tough.

Nick’s wife, Julie, was also able to access support provided by Help for Heroes ‘Band of Sisters’ at a time when Nick was very unwell.

Nick said: “The daily struggles with mental health, sleep and pain affecting your quality of life are something that resonate with me.

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“When you have to leave the Military because of physical or mental injuries you are expected to just get on with it, but what you experience in combat can impact on your mental health and wellbeing for the rest of your life.

“But more than that, they can also leave a mark on your family who are such an important part of your support.

"That’s why Help for Heroes not only supports wounded veterans but their loved ones too – and I can’t stress enough how valuable that is.”

A new survey by Help for Heroes shows the overwhelming majority of veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions in the North East are struggling with their mental health on a daily basis.

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The rate – 83% – is ten times 10% higher than the figure for veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions who responded to the survey overall.

It also revealed that 89% have sleep problems and 71% suffer from long-term pain compared to 82% and 73% respectively who responded to the survey overall.

Help for Heroes is launching a fundraising campaign in November to ensure that all wounded veterans can get the specialist one-to-one support they need and deserve.

Sarah Jones, Head of Psychological Wellbeing at Help for Heroes, said: “The data shows us that the physical and mental health of our veterans continue to be of concern, both in the North East and across the rest of the UK.

"Seventy percent told us that they are unsure if they have the tools to manage their long-term health condition and eighty percent said that they rely on the support of loved ones or charities in addition to, or instead of, statutory services.

“That’s why it’s so important that we keep our promise to give wounded veterans and their families the help that they need for as long as they need it. And why we’re now asking for donations to fund our vital services.”

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