A new website, Felix Health, has been launched for the AT and ATO community, serving and retired, focusing on health concerns and in particular mental health concerns. As an AT or ATO, serving or retired, you can access it at www.felix-health.net.
Below, Roger Davies, who is one of the main drivers of this new resource, explains the reasons why he and his colleagues were motivated to offer help.
There were a number of factors at the genesis of this effort. First was the concerning statistic that since 2001 more US EOD operators have committed suicide than have been killed dealing with IEDs. Our US colleagues have lost 125 people to suicide in that period which I think you’ll agree is a shocking statistic. It then became apparent that a number of ATs and ATOs in the UK, both serving and retired, and their families were suffering from the effects of PTSD or broader operational stress issues, and their experiences, which are recounted on the website, make difficult reading.
Two important things came out from this:
- 70 per cent of operational stress sufferers don’t ask for help and suffer in silence.
- No one really knows the prevalence and extent of the issue in our community (serving and retired), for a whole host of complicated reasons.
So, Felix Health tries to do two things in response:
- We have a small network of ATs, ATOs and their families who have experienced this or who are good listeners. You can call them in confidence and discuss your challenges. They aren’t there to cure you or treat you, but they’ll listen sympathetically, give you their experience, and point you in the right direction. You don’t have to suffer these things alone, and you can discuss it, as a start, with people who understand your challenges.
- As a community we want to better understand the prevalence of operational stress related illnesses, so there is a clinically approved survey included in the website which we would ask you, as an AT or ATO, serving or retired, to complete. It will take you 5 minutes and is completely anonymous. It’ll do a couple of things: give you that score (and it may suggest some action) give us some statistical understanding of how prevalent these problems are. That might help us advocate for more or better support. We have also included three questions about the prevalence of three other conditions which might possibly be a problem in our community – cancer, neurological conditions and cataracts. No need to panic and these may match the prevalence in the wider population, but unless we ask we might not see a trend. It’s really important that everyone, however fit and healthy they think they are complete this.
Please pass this around all your AT and ATO colleagues, serving or retired. In a couple of months or so we’ll update you with the findings.
In the past few months we’ve discovered a few things:
The psychometric testing we went through is no guide to vulnerability to PTSD and related conditions.
It’s possible that PTSD and related effects don’t present themselves until decades after the events that caused them. Retired ATs and ATOs are potential sufferers long after they left the service.
It’s very probable that there are those still serving who don’t seek help through career concerns or related to EOD pay.
Underpinning this is that strange word “fellowship”. We are a pretty tight community, and we have unusual shared experiences. We went through those experiences together and it has damaged some of us. So, by sticking together and supporting each other after “task complete”, we can help our colleagues.
Sometimes those suffering operationally-induced stress won’t talk to people about it – so if nothing else, have a think about your pals, and give them a call, proactively. They might be suffering alone, in silence, unable or unwilling to reach out.
Call them. You might save a life.