Two former servicemen have talked about their struggle with PTSD and how The Poppy Factory in Richmond has helped they integrate into civilian life.

Jamie served in the Army for 17 years, carrying out two tours in Iraq and progressing to become a Tank Commander. Casper, who is originally from Barbados moved to the UK in his mid-twenties and enlisted in the Royal Marines. He transferred to the Royal Engineers but was medically discharged in 2007 due to injury.

They both developed PTSD as a result of their service and joined The Poppy Factory for support. Jamie now works year-round as a member of The Poppy Factory's production team, making remembrance wreaths and set out the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.

He said: : “I signed up to the British Army in 1999 and spent 17 years in the Royal Dragoon Guards where I was a Commander of a Challenger 2 tank. I’d always been interested in the military because my grandad was a soldier in the Second World War.

“I first started as a driver then progressed to be a gunner and a loader/operator. I have done two tours of Iraq and was stationed in numerous places in the UK, and spent seven years in Munster, Germany. Having PTSD means that one day you can be really up but another day you can be really low. There’s no controlling it. If I have a period of feeling good, it’s inevitable that I’m going to experience a lull in my mood at some point.

“I feel as though our brains are the world’s most powerful hard drives. Some of us are able to process information instantly and store it correctly in our hard drive, but others process the information in such slow and fragmented ways, and it’s mixed up with emotions. Sometimes your brain can become overloaded.

“The support I’ve got from The Poppy Factory has been great. Coming to work and knowing there are others who have PTSD is reassuring. We do all have to help ourselves, but having supportive and friendly colleagues is important. Christmas can be hard for someone who’s been in the military, especially if they’re feeling isolated. Having the structure of a job and a good support network makes it a lot easier.

Casper also spoke about his time in the military and living with PTSD: “During training with the Royal Engineers I injured my left knee and back, which meant I couldn’t be deployed, and I was medically discharged. My post-traumatic stress disorder is related to something that happened to me while I was in the military. A couple of years after I came out I was finding things a bit difficult, and I was sent to a psychiatrist who said I had PTSD. I didn’t even know what it was at the time.

“I wanted to make positive changes so I embraced a holistic lifestyle and took up gardening at my home in Beckton, east London, which I found really relaxing. I went to a number of organisations for help before I found Tom at The Poppy Factory. Tom managed my expectations and didn’t promise too much. You have to put in the work yourself, and I found the more work I put in, the more Tom was able to help me as well.

“It’s great to be able to talk to him regularly, whenever I need to, because he understands how hard it is for someone who’s been in the military to fit into the civilian world. If you don’t have a stake in society it gives you too much time to think, and that can start to impact negatively on your mental health. Employment is a big part of that.

"Employers in general need to change the way they look at people who have been in the Forces. For many people, as soon as they know you’re ex-military and you have a mental health issue, they think you’re going to do something unexpected. It doesn’t work like that, but that’s the challenge you face. I don’t do anything that would endanger anyone. I don’t drink, I don’t take drugs – I do the gardening and I read at least one book a week."

A poll carried out by YouGove for The Poppy Factory found that four in 5 (84 percent) London adults believe it would be difficult for someone living with PTSD to stay in paid work for 12 months or longer, potentially making it difficult to stay on top of their finances.

The poll sought to gauge public understanding of the challenges faced by those who have PTSD and who may struggle to find a new role in the civilian world.