Heysham man selected to represent Team UK at Invictus Games

A former soldier now living in Heysham has been selected to represent Team UK at The Invictus Games in 2020.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th November 2019, 8:58 am
Tom O'Brien.
Tom O'Brien.

Tom O’Brien, 31, won a bronze medal in the discus at the games in Sheffield in July 2019 and is one of 65 competitors to be chosen to represent the United Kingdom in the 2020 event, which will take place on May 9-16 in The Hague, Netherlands.

Tom joined The Scots Guards at the age of 17, serving six years as an infantry soldier, an intelligence collator and linguist.

He completed tours of Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010 before leaving the armed forces in 2012, after which he began to suffer from mental health problems.

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However, the introduction to the Invictus journey served as a turning point in Tom’s life.

Tom said: I left the Army in 2012 just before the birth of my daughter and unfortunately my mental health soon started to deteriorate. I was angry, depressed, suicidal. I had night terrors, flash backs, hypervigilance, paranoia.

“I would drink heavily or self harm.

“In 2013, after years of aggression, violence, repeated arrests for fighting and of feeling hopeless, worthless and a burden to my family, I had a breakdown and ended up in psychiatric care for around three months.

“From there, I came home and spent two and a half years dosed up on medications that all had adverse side effects that were ruinous to my health.

“I have had so many psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors.

“Ive been on anger management courses, and an intensive treatment program through a veteran’s mental health charity, including trauma focused congnitive behavioural therapy.

“In 2017 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder).

“I also have hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as arthritus in my knees which meant I was unable to keep playing rugby and often find it difficult to walk for long. 
Later in 2017 I was introduced to sports recovery through my good friend Dave Watson, a soldier I served alongside who lost three limbs after being blown up by an IED in Afghanistan.

“He had been involved with sports recovery and himself won medals at the invictus games. He gave me the kick up the backside I needed to attend an Invictus Games open day and from there I signed up to start training through the Invictus program.

“In 2018 I was selected to represent the UK at The Warrior Games in Colorado where I won bronze for powerlifting in the men’s superheavyweight category.

“I also competed in archery and athletics field events. It was an amazing experience and spurred me on to keep training.

“I competed in the 2019 Mey Highland Games with the Help for Heroes team, taking part in lifting the ardblair Atlas Stones, shotput, tossing the caber, tug o’war amongst other events.

“There have been many times I felt like giving up, my mental health has fluctuated and I’ve often struggled to find the motivation to keep training, but I am so lucky to have a very supportive wife and family who always encourage me to keep going and have faith in me even when I don’t have faith in myself.”