When John Templeton was medically discharged from the British Army in 1998, he may have left the battlefield, but it did not leave him.
Returning home after 12 years of military service, Mr Templeton found himself facing a daily struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Around the same time, a friend commited suicide on 11 September 2001 - the day of the twin towers terror attack in New York.
Mr Templeton found himself annually haunted by press coverage of the event on the anniversary of a day that was tragic for the world but also tragic for him on a personal level. Under these immense pressures, Mr Templeton recalls, “my mental health gradually became worse and worse. I had a breakdown. I don’t even know what year that was to be honest.”
“I had to invest a lot of time and effort to understand what was wrong with me”
In 2007, Mr Templeton’s GP, a former naval doctor, referred him to Combat Stress, a leading UK veteran mental health charity. Here he received treatment until 2012 and fully dedicated himself to the recovery process. He recalls, “I had to invest a lot of time and effort to understand what was wrong with me. It took a lot of trust.”
Initially, Mr Templeton struggled to surrender that trust. “I describe myself as a typical 49-year old Western Scotland male,” he says. “It’s not in our DNA to ask for help. We take care of our problems ourselves.
“The journey was a strange one because probably for the first time since childhood I had to put trust in people to look after me.”
This trust was particularly important to Mr Templeton’s relationship with his named nurse, Natalie, who he developed a strong therapeutic relationship with during Combat Stress’ six week PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme in Ayrshire. At the end of the six weeks, Mr Templeton sat down with Natalie to discuss his future.
“I didn’t want to go back to where I had been”
“’Where do we go next?’ is the question she asked,” he recalls. “And I didn’t know, but I didn’t want to go back to where I had been.”
Inspired by the nurses who guided him on his path to recovery, Mr Templeton decided to pursue a career as a mental health nurse. This decision sprung from his desire to provide compassionate and non-judgmental care to veterans and others struggling with mental ill-health. Above all, Mr Templeton says he wants to stand up for the rights of individuals.
“People with mental health problems are stigmatised in society,” he says. “They need people to fight for them.”
Despite his unwavering dedication to becoming a nruse, Mr Templeton initially found it challenging to get back into education after almost 30 years. Today, however, Mr Templeton has succeeded in completing year two of his training and he says, “I’m absolutely busting to start year three.”
As a result of his remarkable personal achievements, Mr Templeton is already inspiring other nursing students. He is proud, he says, “be able to pass on my advice and life stories to younger nurses who are struggling. To give them the confidence to continue when they might have given up.”
What kind of advice does he give them? “You can do it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It’s a difficult slog but it’s worth it in the end.”