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Allow me to talk about my past and you might give me a better future

Having a criminal record can make it difficult to get into employment but as Ben has discovered, a diagnosis of PTSD makes it even more so.

I came out of prison after serving 3 months of a six-month sentence.

To give you some background to my conviction, I was sent home from military service with combat stress. The military tried to help me by putting me on a six-week treatment programme but after a week it was agreed that my symptoms were far too complex for them to treat and so the decision was taken to send me home. My head was all over the place and I just wanted to put my car through a brick wall and do away with myself.

I thought I might feel better if I were able to explain how I felt. Thinking it might be easier to talk to my wife over a drink, we headed off to a local pub. However, I ended up getting absolutely paralytic drunk and on the way home had a fantastic idea – I’d ring the police and tell them that I was planning on blowing up a local mosque.

When the police arrived at the phone box from which I’d made the call they came on masse – three patrol cars in all. I tried to explain how I was feeling and why I’d done what I’d done. They had to arrest me and I went along willingly; in a strange way I thought I might be able to get some help for my problems.

My case was heard at Crown Court where the prosecution agreed with my barrister that my motives were not racially motivated and that nothing would be served by sending me to prison. Both recommended that I have 1-1 counselling through the probation service. However, the judge stated that he had to make an example of me and so prison it was.

I did my time with no problems or complaints. It was a short sentence and I just kept my head down. Sadly I didn’t get any help or counselling and when I was released I was really in the same position as I’d been before I went to prison. The only difference was that nobody wanted to know me – so much for having served my time!!!

I found it incredibly difficult to get work and it feels like I’m constantly being punished for a stupid mistake I made just to try to get some help for myself.

I eventually manged to get some counselling and was diagnosed with PTSD. The treatment I’ve received has really helped me and I feel like I’m in a much better place.

Believing that I’d never be able to get a job I decided that the only option I had would be to work for myself. I decided to set up a photography business which I’m pleased to say is slowly getting off the ground.

I’ve been in touch with all the sports clubs in my local area, especially those which have kids teams (parents love photos of their off-spring in action). It’s important for me to show that I’m no risk to any of the children that I’m photographing and so whenever I’m asked, I’m happy to show clubs a copy of my enhanced DBS check. Inevitably, I’ll be asked about the time I spent in prison. I tell them why I did what I did and how I came to be in that position.

The majority of clubs I’ve spoken to have absolutely no issue with the fact that I’ve been in prison; they seem to be more concerned about the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with military PTSD – I’m sure they think that I’m some sort of axe wielding maniac.

I’ve never used my PTSD as an excuse for my behaviour. What I did was a cry for help and I’m sure that the PTSD led to the bad choices I made in seeking this.

I’ve embraced and engaged with the treatment that I’ve been offered and I’ve learnt coping mechanisms to help me deal with my triggers. In the same way that I’m happy to discuss my criminal record, I’d have no problem talking about my PTSD especially if it helped employers get a better understanding of it.

By Ben  (name changed to protect identity)

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