Craig Mealing, 43, served 23 years in the Army including tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was made redundant in December 2013 but struggled to adapt to civilian life and ended up homeless. He was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and now uses pottery as a way of coping. Craig was supported by a SSAFA caseworker who was able to source funding for his own potter’s wheel and kiln.
Your donation will help us fight the invisible enemy.
Sign up for our email newsletter to get our latest news in your inbox
Craig joined the First Battalion Devonshire & Dorset Regiment in 1990 at the age of 16 and transferred to the Royal Engineers in 1996. After an active career which saw him complete tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (2003/2006) and Afghanistan, he was discharged in 2013.
He said: “I volunteered for redundancy – I thought it was time. I enjoyed everything about my time in the Army. I don’t regret any of it. Of course there were bad times and good times but over all it was good. The Army is a way of life and it’s been very hard adjusting to civvy street.”
When he left the Army, Craig moved in with his then partner but the relationship broke down and he ended up living in a summer house and found his mental health deteriorating. He said: “I’m quite embarrassed about it now but it was like I was in fight mode rather than flight mode. I wasn’t behaving like myself. I was aggressive, I was using drink as a coping mechanism. I did at one point end up homeless and I just ended up sofa-surfing for a bit. I managed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist at Combat Stress who diagnosed me with PTSD.”
As part of his therapy Craig was given the opportunity to try pottery and found it so useful that he decided to take it up long term and sought help from SSAFA caseworker Janet Brewer.
He said: “Janet managed to secure funding and grants to pay for a pottery wheel and kiln so I can work at home. It’s a great stress relief. It can take all your worries away because you are just focusing on that one thing. It keeps you out of trouble. You can’t throw a pot with a can of lager in your hand!
“It also gets me out and about. I’m away from my family here and it would be very easy to just stay at home and isolate myself. I can’t thank SSAFA enough. It has changed my life. You can’t beat throwing a pot after a stressful day at work.”
Craig now works n the control room at an Essex port and is just about to start a City & Guilds course in ceramics.