Calls grow for more help as second Army veteran found hanged

NMAC11-3064-1'Former soldier Ashley Clarkson.
NMAC11-3064-1'Former soldier Ashley Clarkson.

CALLS have been made demanding more help for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a second Army veteran from the area was found hanged within a week.

Just seven days after Warsop Pte Lee Bonsall was discovered by his wife, Iraq veteran and Kirkby worker, Pte Ashley Clarkson (23), was found by his girlfriend Chloe in his Mansfield home.

Ashley’s mother Mary Fells (43) wants to know why he was not given more help by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Mary, of Dallas Street, says her son was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009 while serving in the Army but was never given any help.

Mary said this week: “Ashley said ‘the Army teaches you not to be weak and asking for help is a sign of weakness’.

“It should not be drummed into them that they cannot talk about things. I told him to go and see his commanding officer but he said ‘you cannot do that, mum’.

“When he came out of the Army I wanted him to get some help - he went to Chilwell (barracks) and they assessed his mental condition and he came out with a bunch of leaflets. He did not have any therapy.”

Mum-of-six Mary told how Ashley, who served as a driver in 43 Close Support Logistics in Iraq, had phoned her one night ‘distraught’ after a seven-year-old girl who had stepped on a bomb died in his arms while he was out on patrol.

“But when he came back on rest and recuperation he never spoke about it again,” she said.

Events in the Army came to a head for Ashley when in 2009 he was prosecuted for drink driving while based at Preston.

Mary said: “I think the reason he did it is because he was due to do a tour in Afghanistan and he knew it would mean he would not be able to drive. The speed he was travelling at he knew he would get arrested.”

Ashley lost his licence for two years and then spent three weeks in Colchester Military Prison before returning to Preston where he was based until he left the Army in April last year.

Mary said Ashley seemed to get his life back on track after leaving the Forces. He had secured a job at Jet Joinery, based on New Line Road, Kirkby, and moved into a house on Clifford Street with help from the Royal British Legion.

The ex-soldier was featured in Chad in November last year after providing a disabled veteran with timber off-cuts from the company to help heat his home through the winter.

Mary said: “I really thought he was doing alright. I do not know if it was losing his granddad in August last year. His brothers and father are devastated.

“He was the perfect son. He was caring and thought of everybody but himself - he did not have a bad bone in his body.

“It is just so wrong - they should be assessed before leaving and go through a mental health programme. The army diagnosed him with PTSD but there was no contact or anything afterwards and they did not put him into any treatment centre.”

Ashley was found by his girlfriend Chloe on 10th March at his Mansfield home.

An MoD spokesman said: “The mental health of service personnel is a top priority and we have robust systems in place to identify and treat those with mental health issues including when deployed on operations. The MoD’s highly experienced mental health professionals deliver high quality treatment at the dedicated Departments of Community Mental Health clinics both in the UK and overseas.”

Ashley is also survived by his father Wayne Clarkson (44), stepfather Darren Brailsford (44), stepmother Wendy Clarkson (44) and brothers and sisters Natasha (22), Natasha (21), Kelly (17), James (15), Hollie (13), Saskia (12), Savanah (7), William (5), Grace (3) and Harry (2).

His funeral will be held at Mansfield Crematorium today at 11.45am, followed by a wake at the Bold Forester, Sutton Road, between 1-1.30pm.

The family have asked for donations to the Royal British Legion and Mansfield veterans’ charity the Joint Forces Alliance rather than flowers.

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