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Veteran’s call to families to look out for men’s mental health in the new year

PUBLISHED: 07:32 03 January 2020

Army veteran and former prison officer Nigel Seaman started the Combat2Coffee business with the support of school friend Andrea Jelley  Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

Army veteran and former prison officer Nigel Seaman started the Combat2Coffee business with the support of school friend Andrea Jelley Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

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An ex-solider who battled his demons to launch his own business which helps others with mental health issues has called on the community to look out for men who may be struggling this new year.

Nigel Seaman served in the Royal Anglian Regiment before becoming a prison officer  Picture: DAVID KINDREDNigel Seaman served in the Royal Anglian Regiment before becoming a prison officer Picture: DAVID KINDRED

Now working as a barista trainer, Combat2Coffee founder Nigel Seaman devotes his life to helping former servicemen and women in Suffolk and Essex battling post-traumatic stress disorder readjust to civilian life.

But it wasn't long ago that the 46-year-old was in their shoes - and was contemplating taking his own life after traumatic war-time memories and a workplace injury prevented him from living a normal life.

Now, as the new year brings hope of a fresh start for many, the former Royal Anglian has called on the community to make helping others their new year's resolution, and for men to feel more comfortable to open up about their struggles.

Mr Seaman said: "From a man's point of view, we tend to work on old fashioned traditions and values. But life isn't like that anymore - as a society we have evolved and this is something that we haven't evolved in. It's OK to not be OK and people need to understand they can talk about their problems.

After leaving the army, Nigel Seaman was a coach at Ipswich YMRFC  Picture: LUCY TAYLORAfter leaving the army, Nigel Seaman was a coach at Ipswich YMRFC Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

"We all know the major signs to look out for, but with men it really can be the little things. It could be someone deciding not to shave their beard for a few days, not changing their clothes, their diet beginning to change, not wanting to leave the house. They can all be the signs of something bigger."

Mr Seaman added many men can show signs of anger when experiencing mental health problems, which he said should not be confused with being an inherent trait.

Mr Seaman said: "People tend to look at anger as a character trait, but it can so easily be anxiety as they share such similar behaviours.

"I was never an angry man when I was at my worst. I was an anxious man."

Mr Seaman won the Stars of Suffolk Armed Services Award for his work in aiding former soldiers with mental health problems   Picture: BRITTANY WOODMANMr Seaman won the Stars of Suffolk Armed Services Award for his work in aiding former soldiers with mental health problems Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

According to the Office for National Statistics, 75% of all registered suicides in the UK in 2018 were by men, with the most common age group being 45 to 49, with 27.1 deaths per 100,000 - in comparison to 9.2 deaths for women of the same age group.

On Saturday, January 4, a one-minute video is to be shown before all 32 FA Cup games in a scheme launched by the Duke of Cambridge to raise awareness on men's mental health.

For Mr Seaman, the new year brings with it the opportunity to turn a new leaf and the chance for men to open up, be themselves and move forward.

He said: "I am a completely different person to last year - I'm becoming the old me again.

"I still have my down days, just as everyone does - but I'm doing well. And that's the most important thing.

"There is such a fine line between good and bad mental health. Anything can happen in anyone's life - it doesn't have to be traumatic - which can tip them over the edge."

He continued: "Last year was better then the previous year, but this year can be even better. That is the key.

"I have learned you can't change what's happened yesterday. But you can work for tomorrow. What you do today will influence tomorrow.

"Personally, I know I can't let go of my past. But I can move forward. I can make people aware of how I'm feeling and work on how to feel better.

"The key message every man needs to understand is that it is perfectly OK to say 'I'm not feeling great today'."

As he began to tackle his mental health issues, Mr Seamen launched his own business, Coffee2Combat.

He has his own brew and travels around in training former servicemen as baristas and offering outreach and support to those who are suffering.

Sales of his coffee blend, produced by Freshpac coffee roasters in Halesworth, go to Combat Stress at the end of each year. The charity, alongside Help for Heroes, aided Nigel during his darker days.

Mr Seaman was recently recognised for his good deeds at the annual Stars of Suffolk Awards, taking home the Armed Services Award for his work with veterans.

More: Stars of Suffolk winners revealed

Accepting his award, an emotional Mr Seaman thanked his family for their support during his darker days.

He said: "My family really struggled when I was poorly and that's the biggest thing for me. I don't want other families to go through what we've been through together. Families undeservedly become victims too."

Samaritans are available 24/7 to supply support to anyone who needs help with their mental health on 116 123.


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