WHEN Jimmy Church was told he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he burst out laughing.
The Glasgow man had seen some horrific sights during his time in the Territorial Army, but that had been years before.
Surely it wouldn’t have taken so long to affect him?
But Jimmy had likely been living with the symptoms for many years without being diagnosed.
Nine years since the shocking news, Jimmy has come to accept it and is now in a much better place.
This is partly thanks to a bouncing springer spaniel full of energy called Bracken. She was gifted to Jimmy by a charity called Glen Art, whose Bravehound scheme matches companion dogs to veterans.
The 60-year-old said: “I’m up at the back of five every morning, taking her walks.
“I have a purpose now and it’s also good exercise for both of us. Before I would spend a lot of time in front of the television, just channel-hopping.”
Jimmy lives in one of the bungalows in the grounds of veterans’ charity, Erskine.
“I’m now meeting other veterans who have dogs and there’s a dog training class in Erskine every Friday.”
Jimmy comes from a proud military family. His grandfather and father both served and only eyesight problems stopped Jimmy joining the Army.
“So in 1974 I joined the TA’s medical corp – a unit my three sisters and brother also joined,” he explained.
Jimmy had two stints in the TA, the second as a chef. During his time in Bosnia in 1993 he “saw some things that really affected me, but it’s not something I talk about.”
Jimmy carried on working as a civilian chef, not realising that issues were taking hold.
“I moved all of the furniture from my bedroom into the living room, closed the curtains and locked myself away for a couple of years. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
“Eventually I saw a GP, who sent me to a psychologist and within 10 minutes she had contacted Combat Stress. One of their welfare officers, Colonel David Steele, came out and said I needed help.
“I laughed when I was told I had PTSD, because these things happened so long ago.
“No one likes to admit they have mental health problems. There is still a stigma attached.”
Jimmy continues to attend Hollybush House, a Combat Stress treatment centre in Ayrshire, on an annual basis.
And three years ago he went to college in Durham and completed a greenkeeper course, winning student of the year in the process.
He now works as a self-employed gardener and is involved with Glen Art, which helps those from a military background return to civilian life.
Jimmy added: “Having Bracken can only have a positive impact on me.”
Bravehound is competing in the National Lottery Awards 2017, the annual search for the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded project, alongside six other Scottish entries.
To cast your vote, go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards. Voting closes on July 27.