POST traumatic stress disorder, which affects hundreds of thousands of people, will be at the heart of Swindon’s largest conference on the ‘invisible injury’ to date.

Swindon Trauma Group will stage its fifth forum, called ‘Beyond the Mud, Filth and the Trauma of the First World War: Shellshock to Post Traumatic Stress’, on June 6 to highlight the many faces of the condition and signpost support services for sufferers in the area.

While PTSD and extreme anxiety are becoming a growing issue not only for ex-servicemen but for anyone struggling to cope with a traumatic experience, many people are left feeling isolated and with nowhere to turn.

The conference, organised by trauma group founder Dick Hilling, will be the opportunity to break taboos and correct the many misconceptions still rife in society, even among the medical profession.

“The conference is about removing the stigma of mental illness but also to champion ex-servicemen and women by offering them guidance and support,” said Swindon Trauma Group member Rob Fenton.

“We chose the theme because it’s the 100th anniversary of WWI and to remind people that it’s still very much there. It’s a hugely widespread condition but it’s hidden.

It remains an invisible injury. The scars are inside. And many people suffer in silence.”

Like many PTSD sufferers, Rob, who returned to his life as a civilian after fighting in the Zimbabwe conflict between 1967 and 1975, did not immediately fall prey to fits of uncontrollable panic and anxiety.

After more than two decades, however, under increasing stress at work, flashbacks from the years spent in bomb disposal in what was Rhodesia overwhelmed him, eventually forcing him to stop working.

“I still have triggers when I hear a helicopter and I get flashbacks,” added the 65-year-old, from Taw Hill. “I know I am safe in my head but I am reliving the horrors of the war.

“It took 24 years for it to show. The flash backs started out of the blue.”

One of the aims of the conference is also to promote education and ensure health professionals have the tools to support sufferers.

Rob’s wife Judy, 64, was faced with much ignorance and very little help when, after being treated by the mental health services, her husband was released back to her and his GP’s care.

“I was very much alone,” she said. “It is hard. You go to the GP when you’ve been helped by the mental health service and they stand back. Then you have to go to your GP who knows nothing at all about mental health or PTSD. And the wives go through trauma as well.”

Among speakers will be doctors, renowned psychiatrists and Swindon South MP Robert Buckland.

  • The conference will be held at the Marriot Hotel. To book a place or to see the full programme of presentations go on