AN INVERKEITHING ex-serviceman says the RAF Benevolent Fund saved his life after developing severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) while trying to adapt back to civilian life.

Andrew Stevens, 38, served in the air force for seven-and-a-half years as a painter and finisher but his plans of a 22-year career were cut short when he was faced with redundancy in 2007.

Life after the military appeared good at first and the dad-of-three gained employment with Lothian Buses but his life was turned around after taking a few days off for illness.

He said: "I got the cold or the flu and I didn't know what to do so I went into my work very ill and showed them.

"They said to me, 'Well are you calling off?' I said yes, I signed a self-cert and I went off.

"This was something new to me – in the RAF when you're ill you go straight to a sick bay and the doctor gives you three days off and that's it.

"I had no idea that in the civilian world people fake it so a couple of days later, I went back to work and I was given a verbal warning – I was having to explain myself for just having a couple of days off.

"I had young kids, bills to pay, a mortgage and I thought I was going to lose my job."

Andrew was told that if he took any more time off he would face disciplinary action which caused him to start washing his hands obsessively – scared he was going to become sick.

His mental health deteriorated so badly that he became trapped in the house, fearful to do anything and was signed off work after being diagnosed with OCD.

"In the RAF, you're trained to be resilient and get on with it," Andrew explained.

"I started to think I was the problem and if I'm not here then the mortgage is paid off.

"I was very, very depressed with my life because all this blame was on me so you start to question other things in your life.

"I was ready to end things."

Andrew eventually picked up the phone to the RAF Benevolent Fund who enrolled him onto their listening and counselling services.

He has begun a new job with charity Skillforce, helping children realise their potential, and is in the process of setting his own business up helping teenagers and working alongside the benevolent fund.

He added: "I was receiving treatment within weeks. If it wasn't for the RAF Benevolent Fund then I may not be here.

"They were there very fast and I starting realising I could get better and there was a future.

"I am now a year and a half after it all, my kids have got their father back, I've got a lovely wife, I live in a great part of Scotland.

"We're doing things that we've never done for years.

"I was sitting there for years getting no help. The message is: Pick up the phone even if you served in the sixties or you're still serving.

"I regret sitting there for 10 years."

To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, go to www.rafbf.org or call 0300 102 1919.

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