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'Heartbreaking' plight of stressed former UDR soldier living in a tent in Mournes

By Cate McCurry

A former UDR soldier suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been living in the Mourne Mountains since the summer.

'James' - not his real name - is aged in his 40s and has been sleeping rough in a camouflaged tent for six months.

The former serviceman, who was diagnosed with PTSD 13 years ago after a mental breakdown, is unable to live at home due to his condition and a court order related to it.

However, the former soldier's partner, who has asked not to be named, desperately wants him to come home.

She said her partner has been suffering from paranoia.

"It has been heartbreaking to watch," she said.

Speaking from his tent, James said he refuses to stay in accommodation offered by the authorities due to his PTSD.

The former soldier, who served in the UDR for some eight years before leaving the security forces in 1995, said his living conditions are "madness".

"It's pathetic, it's disgusting and it beggars belief that something like this could happen in this day and age," he said.

"I built this all myself and this is all because of love.

"I've been living like this, in a tent, for six months. I know this is madness but what else can I do? I can't take any more. It's degrading and I'm being made to feel like a criminal on the run."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie - a former soldier and Military Cross recipient - yesterday highlighted James's plight.

The Afghanistan veteran said that "homelessness can be a complex issue and there are those who cannot be helped for a variety of reasons.

"There are also those who are being deliberately ignored because of their background," he said.

"As I write this, I know of one military veteran who is presently living in a tent in the mountains and has been for the last six months.

"This individual has post-traumatic stress disorder, diagnosed 13 years ago and he is receiving medication to help him cope," the MLA said. "The symptoms of this PTSD are heightened vigilance and awareness, as well as paranoia due to his military service.

"These symptoms are not unusual for a former soldier, especially one who comes from the border regions of Northern Ireland and has seen first-hand the ethnic cleansing that has gone on in that region.

"This individual needs to have a support network close at hand to help him, familiar surroundings and an understanding ear.

"He needs an envelope of support that can offer him the chance for a degree of normality."

Mr Beattie said that due to James's PTSD symptoms - heightened vigilance and paranoia - he will not accept accommodation due to its unfamiliarity.

"So he lives in a tent, sometimes in the Mourne Mountains, sometimes elsewhere but never at home."

A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: "In light of our duty of confidentiality to our clients, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a specific case.

"We would encourage anyone with any concerns about Trust staff or services to contact us directly."

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