An Army veteran who was the youngest soldier to serve in the Gulf War, and has since battled through two strokes, has launched a national charity campaign aimed at reducing the stigma around mental illness.
John Owens was only 17 when he became a Royal Highland Fusilier, and he was in his early 20s when he had his first stroke.
It was after suffering a second, at the age of 38, that Mr Owens began to struggle with his mental health.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
He suffered in silence for 18 months but after “breaking down”, began to receive support from the Help For Heroes charity – which has turned his life around.
And the 44-year-old is now fronting the organisation’s Cut The Clock campaign, which encourages veterans not to delay in asking for help with mental health conditions such as PTSD.
The initiative has been launched after a survey found that former forces personnel typically delay in asking for help for almost four years.
Mr Owens said the charity’s Hidden Wounds service helped him go “from not having the confidence to speak about what I’ve been through to anyone, to being able to talk about it”.
He said: “For me, months passed before I had help and I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer like that.”
Since being taken under the charity’s wing, Mr Owens has developed a love of running and slowly rebuilt his confidence due to the positive impact physical fitness can have on mental health.
He took part in the Great Scottish Run and Scottish Half Marathon in 2016, and is now an ambassador for Help for Heroes, giving talks and attending events.
The Kilmarnock man added: “I went public, letting everyone know who I am, what I’ve been through and most importantly the help I’ve received.”
People can support the campaign at www.CutTheClock.com