Overcoming battlefield trauma: Garreth Murrell’s story

Published: 11 Dec 2018

Author: Garreth Murrell
Overcoming battlefield trauma: Garreth Murrell’s story

Ex-soldier Garreth Murrell travelled to the USA and Canada in 2012 to investigate the use of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to treat veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His findings influenced the development of his burgeoning charity, which has now won awards for its services and helped hundreds of veterans to recover from battlefield trauma.

The journey

Fourteen years after leaving the army, Garreth Murrell found himself in personal crisis. Although professionally he had moved on, having established a new career as a crime scene investigator, his experiences in various war zones had left psychological scars. He had developed a debilitating stammer, and was suffering from paranoia, sleeplessness and flashbacks.

Garreth had tried various treatments for his symptoms, but they only became worse. He then paid for an intensive NLP session, and, incredibly, in one day all his issues were resolved.

Below: Garreth Murrell

Garreth Murrell

NLP is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy developed in the USA in the 1970s. In a therapeutic setting, it can be used to resolve trauma, without requiring a person to relive the experiences that have marked them.

The benefits Garreth gained from NLP were so profound that he was moved to train as an NLP practitioner, and in 2010 set up a charity, Veterans at Ease, to make the treatment available to others. Veterans at Ease provide free one-to-one NLP interventions for veterans and their immediate family members, along with life coaching once issues around trauma have been resolved.

To aid the development of his charity’s services, Garreth travelled to the USA and Canada in 2012 on a Churchill Fellowship to visit other organisations using NLP to help veterans. One highlight from the trip was meeting Deanna Brasseur, a retired Canadian military officer and one of the world’s first woman jet fighter pilots, who had used NLP to overcome her own traumatic experiences.

The results

Garreth’s Fellowship inspired him to grow his charity. After his return, Veterans at Ease secured over £380,000 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the largest non-capital grant ever awarded to a charity from the North East of England. This enabled him to recruit more staff, including two more therapists to work alongside him. Over the four-year term of the grant (2012-16), more than 200 people were helped by the charity, with over 80% of service users reporting that they had successfully resolved their issues.

Below: Garreth is presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by Sue Snowdon, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham

Garreth is presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

2016 was a bittersweet year for Garreth. It saw Veterans at Ease win the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK. They were the first military charity in the UK to receive this accolade.

In the same year, the charity was informed by the Big Lottery Fund that their funding would not continue. Garreth was forced to make some very hard decisions, with some members of staff made redundant and Garreth choosing to substantially reduce his own salary.

Garreth realised that a new business model was required for Veterans at Ease and they have now become a social enterprise. They have opened the first of five proposed boutique charity shops in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, and income from it is already supporting the clinical side of the charity four months ahead of schedule. The shop has also become the first point of contact for many veterans wishing to access Veterans at Ease’s services.

Below: the shop is opened by Major Ian Ingram, Deputy lord Lieutenant of Northumberland, and reservist Major Dee Herraghty 

The shop is opened

Veterans at Ease are on a steady footing again. They tripled their service output in 2018 and now offer three days of therapy per week. Garreth has recently completed a CLORE Experienced Leadership course and he says it has helped him become a more effective boss. He hopes that in the coming years, Veterans at Ease will continue to increase the amount of clinical work they do and expand beyond the North East of England.

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