Widow of SAS hero calls for better trauma services for soldiers

7 July 2020, 11:59 | Updated: 7 July 2020, 12:14

By Seán Hickey

The wife of an SAS Staff Sergeant who died by suicide urged the Ministry of Defence to give military personnel the skills to cope with trauma and prevent more deaths.

James Ferguson had served in the armed forces for around twenty years before taking his own life after battling with a trauma he sustained in Malawi. His wife, Sammi Ferguson was sharing her husband's story with Nick Ferrari when began to point out where the Ministry of Defence fails to protect it's forces.

Nick asked Mrs Ferguson what she thinks her husband should have been provided that was not" as his condition deteriorated. She told him that Mr Ferguson "would have asked someone within the military for help, only I don't know who that is. I can't answer the question as to why he didn't get that."

Nick wondered if "the MOD does enough" in protecting the mental wellbeing of forces, Mrs Ferguson's answer was a resounding no. "Over the past three years there's been over 200 deaths by suicide for military deaths. The MOD do not collate deaths by suicide...I think that's wrong."She added that "we can't be reactive, we must be proactive.

"What needs to happen is you've to go back to the beginning of soldier's careers when you get them in basic training, what you need to do is give them the tools to deal with trauma first."

"The system that they have now doesn't work, you can't stick a bandaid on this. My husband had two years left on his career and then he would have retired, and he couldn't cope with the trauma."

"It seems to be a big hole that these guys and girls are falling in."

Sammi Ferguson called on the MOD to do more to teach soldiers to cope with trauma
Sammi Ferguson called on the MOD to do more to teach soldiers to cope with trauma. Picture: PA

While Mrs Ferguson told Nick about her husband's case, and where his problems began. She told Nick that her Mr Ferguson had been on assignment in Malawi when he witnessed a fellow soldier attacked by an elephant. After two hours of trying to save him, the colleague died.

"When he came back the only thing I noticed that was different about Jamie was that - he was a nail biter, so he was biting his nails a little bit more. I encouraged him to go and see his GP - military GP which he did and he was diagnosed with an acute stress reaction which very often leads to a diagnosis of PTSD."

Mrs Ferguson insisted that there were no signs present after they were given a diagnosis. "He seemed happy" she told Nick.

Nick was moved by Mrs Ferguson's account. "You must be trying to work out what had happened just prior to it."

She recalled one of her fondest memories near the end of her husband's life. "We stood outside taking in the view and I said to him 'i've never been more happy and content in my life and he said 'me too' and I think unfortunately, that was his queue to leave.

"Matt Talbot's death was one trauma too many for my husband."

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Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:

“Every suicide is a tragedy felt throughout the entire armed forces community – our thoughts are with the family and friends of Sgt Jamie Ferguson at this immensely difficult time.

“I am determined to do all I can to tackle this issue and there are ongoing studies to better understand the number of ex-service personnel who take their own lives, as well as the causes. I will soon be meeting with Jamie’s wife, Sammi, to discuss this.

“There is a range of help available including specialist NHS care and I will continue to do my utmost to make sure our people know where to turn in times of need.”