The Army has a trauma problem, and it’s costing soldiers’ lives

Some weeks ago, I received some very sad news. Dave Salt, who I met in July, 2014, and whose battle with post-traumatic stress disorder features in Chapter Five of Aftershock, had been found dead at his flat in Leamington Spa. He had suffered liver failure as a result of his attempts to self-medicate his many years of paralysing flashbacks and nightmares with alcohol. After a lifetime spent in the Army, Dave died alone, aged 45. He went through the gamut of services provided by the MoD, the NHS and the charity Combat Stress, but nobody was able to provide the treatment he needed to get well.

Dave was determined to help others suffering like he did by speaking out about the grim realities of his condition. He gave an extremely candid interview which featured in the book, and also on a video for Newsnight that explored the difficulties ex-forces face in obtaining meaningful mental health care.

The Guardian approached me shortly after Dave’s death to produce a two-minute video comment on the state of veterans’ services. Dave’s family very kindly agreed for me to tell his story, and provided some photographs. I will leave the video to do the talking, but here is a note from Gemma, Dave’s sister:

“To us, Dave was too special to be forgotten as just another statistic who slipped through the net. Even though he suffered, he felt passionate enough to raise awareness and reach out to others. In time, our grief will become easier to manage but the heartache of never being able to fix Dave, and watching his soul fade away, will remain with us forever. We take full comfort in the hope that even if this video reaches out to one person who may be in Dave’s position, then his legacy will live on, and in a roundabout way, Dave will continue to help others.”