Up to a dozen SAS soldiers are suffering PTSD because of a relentless grim cycle dubbed the “Wheel of Death”.
Sources say members of the elite Who Dares Wins regiment are being hit by mental health issues after swapping war zones for intense training or terror ops – with no time for let-up.
Special forces troops are struggling with nightmares, anxiety, fits of aggression and marital break-ups.
Some self-medicate with alcohol and there are fears the 450-strong unit could soon be hit by a suicide.
But insiders say soldiers are too scared to seek help in case it leads to them being kicked out as unreliable.
A sergeant who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan said: “I know at least 12 guys who right now are struggling with mental health problems.
“Guys’ marriages are on the rocks, they’re drinking too much, they have problems. Some will admit it privately but we are all just expected to crack on.
“The problem is the workload has gone through the roof.
“A lot of guys are burnt out when they return from a tour and there just isn’t time to recover.
“Before you know it you are back in some heavy-duty training or on the counter-terrorist team – it’s unrelenting. We call it the Wheel of Death.”
The sergeant said he was speaking out to try and change the culture within the SAS before a member kills himself.
He was moved to talk to us after Marine Alex Tostevin, 28, a member of the Navy’s SAS equivalent the Special Boat Service, was found dead in a suspected suicide. An inquest is yet to be held.
The sergeant revealed there was a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture over PTSD inside the Hereford-based SAS.
And he confirmed special forces soldiers were reluctant to seek help. He said: “We all know that if you admit to struggling mentally and get medically downgraded you’re effectively finished.
“No one is really going to trust you on operations again. So you either return to your old unit or face being medically discharged.”
The revelations follows the disclosure by the MoD that over 13,000 military veterans are now receiving pensions after being diagnosed with a mental illness. And more than 47,000 serving troops have been diagnosed within the past 10 years.
Describing his own torment the sergeant said: “After my third tour of Afghanistan. I had trouble sleeping, I was drinking too much, arguing with my family. I was like a hair trigger.
“One night I woke up thrashing around and punched my wife in the face. She was very forgiving but said I needed help.
“I went to see a civvy psychologist, but only spoke to her on the condition that she did not tell the Army.”
In 2002, SAS veteran Charles “Nish” Bruce died when he leaped from a plane without a parachute.
In 1998 Frank Collins, a hero of the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege who became a clergyman, committed suicide. Both are believed to have had PTSD.
An MoD spokesman said: “We take the mental wellbeing of our personnel extremely seriously.
“We have increased spending on mental health to £22million a year and set up a 24/7 mental health helpline so there is always somewhere to turn.”
Suicide bid vet in plea
A former soldier plagued by PTSD who survived a suicide bid has urged the Army to give more support to veterans like him.
Ex-infantryman Perry Tatler, 29, is learning to walk again for the SECOND time after shattering his spine and suffering a brain injury when he jumped in front of a train.
Seven years ago he endured months of rehab after being shot through both legs in Afghanistan.
But it was mental scars he really struggled with.
He said: “As the bullet hit me I saw someone in a black burqa with a gun. That is the flashback I’ve had ever since.
“I’d wake up and the sheets would be drenched in sweat. I’d be so scared I’d go into my mum’s room like I was a child again.”
Perry, a private in the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, said he was offered counselling by the Army but it did not work. In 2013 he was medically discharged and struggled with civilian life. He said: “You can’t just let men and women leave after a tour of duty like that and expect them to be ok.
“By the beginning of this year I was in such a dark place I just didn’t think life was worth living.”
Perry, from Newhaven, East Sussex, was living in Devon when he tried to kill himself at Torquay station.
Now he is getting the help he needs through the Veterans’ Mental Health Transition Intervention and Liaison Service.
Perry, who has two young children with his ex-partner, said: “I feel so much more positive now and am looking forward to a future with my kids.
“I don’t regret what I did because it meant I got help but it shouldn’t have come to that. If you put your life on the line for your country, you deserve support.”
Perry praised the “fantastic care” he got at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital, Brighton’s Royal Sussex County and the Newhaven Rehabilitation Centre.