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Navy veteran tells of how stint with newspaper helped return to civilian life

BArry LawsonA naval veteran who suffered from depression after being discharged on medical grounds has told of how a regional daily helped his return to civilian life.

Portsmouth daily The News welcomed Barry Lawson, who served in the Royal Navy, on work experience thanks to a scheme aimed at helping disabled veterans get into new careers.

Barry, pictured, was discharged from the force due to a spinal condition in 2014, and has since suffered chronic back pain and depression after having his disability benefits withdrawn by the government.

The 35-year-old, who lives in Cosham, near Portsmouth, has now told his story in a piece for The News.

He wrote: I was on the ropes. I don’t know what is worse – chronic pain or severe depression. Hope soon faded as well as my self-esteem and confidence. I was unrecognisable.

“I was prescribed antidepressants and I kept persevering, if anything for my wife who has been an extraordinary support. We both went to the Portsmouth Job Centre in November 2017 for support, where we were told that it could not be given as we did not meet any of the criteria.

“I was tired and exhausted. I could not find happiness in anything. Mentally, each day it felt like I was dragging myself through thick mud. The last two sentences of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est kept coming to mind.”

Barry eventually asked the Open University careers team for support, having graduated from the institution with a degree in history in 2017.

He added: “I told the team I thought about journalism, although being a successful journalist in my mind was reserved for Oxbridge graduates, not a crippled 35-year-old veteran with no journalism experience.

“I soon received a telephone call where I was told the good news that I had secured work experience at The News, Portsmouth. This came out of the blue and I was ready for the challenge ahead.

“Each one who has been injured in service have their own impossible. I found it impossible to be kind to myself but I am getting there. I have also been reflective on what I can do, not what I can’t and accepting this.

“I am more content with what I have, my wife and family. And with my Disabled Veterans Scholarship from the Open University to read English literature, I hope to find a new direction in my life as a writer.”

Mark Waldron, editor of The News, told HTFP: “When we were approached by The Open University’s disabled veterans scholarship project and told about Barry we were more than happy to do what we could to help

“Being based in the home of the Royal Navy we have done much to highlight the issues faced by veterans adjusting to life outside the forces.

“We welcomed Barry in to our newsroom for a week so he could find out more about journalism and writing and to give him the chance to tell his story.

“He has an open invite to return as we wish him all the best for the future.”

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  • November 18, 2019 at 10:41 am

    A heartening piece to read and big well done to The News on this very supportive step in helping this gentleman’s recovery.

    Good luck to Barry on his writing career and all good wishes for the future

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