Tommy Lowther and living with PTSD

Tommy Lowther and Living With PTSD – MQ Open Mind

CONTENT WARNING: this episode of Open Mind includes stories about trauma and sexual assault. Listener discretion is advised.

In the experience of mental illness, sometimes the question ‘What happened to you?’ proves more useful than ‘what conditions do you have?’.

Born in Dundee, Scotland, Tommy Lowther’s childhood dream was to become a soldier. In the 1990s, aged 18, he stood between protestants and Catholics in what he calls a “warzone” in Northern Ireland. He talks in this episode about the “invincible” mentality he felt in the military and how that attitude quickly turned into fear.

“I was a boy in a man’s world… The hostility was unbelievable.”

After Northern Ireland, Tommy was posted to Gibraltar. On one night out in a bar, he experienced an attack and sexual assault.

“Taken what happened to me in Northern Ireland… that was a walk in the park compared to [this experience]. In mental health, we talk about our fight, flight or freeze which is our natural reaction to [threatening] scenarios. I always thought mine would be fight. It always has been since. Apart from that one evening. That was when I froze.”

As a mental health research charity, MQ is intentionally devoting attention to research into the effects of trauma on the brain and nervous system. For more on our recent study into PTSD please click here.

Due to misunderstanding and lack of support at the time, Tommy lost his job. During this period his behaviour changed including increased misuse of alcohol and aggression, a common way for those with PTSD to manage the nervous system overwhelm.

“People were wary of me. I had this weird feeling that it was respect… But it wasn’t respect. It was fear…I had completely the wrong outlook on what respect was.”

Tommy speaks about the anxiety and isolation involved in the stigma he encountered and the symptoms of PTSD, including suicide ideation, before his diagnosis.

 “To be honest, {when it comes to} mental health, I had a quite neanderthal approach to it before… I thought ‘It’s not even real, it’s not a thing’.”

The turning point for Tommy was the support he received from Help For Heroes.

“[A psychiatrist] diagnosed me with PTSD. I felt so relieved. I realised I wasn’t a horrible, nasty person who wanted to go out and get drunk and fight, there was a reason.”

PTSD is an important area in MQ’s research. For more on our recent research into preventing PTSD and depression in emergency workers, please click this link.

Tommy’s passion for helping ex-servicemen and women into sport as a catalyst to make positive change in their lives was the bedrock for his new charity Sporting Force. Working with veterans and their families to help people towards mental wellness has helped Tommy and his family in turn with their recovery, contribution and rebuilding towards a bright future.

Tommy’s diagnosis may be PTSD, what happened to him may have been multiple traumas but what happens next is where his sights are now set.

Tommy’s story will be included in a book being published by MQ in May 2023.


You can listen to MQ’s Open Mind wherever you find your podcasts.

You can learn more about Sporting Force here.

If you have been affected by any of the themes we have spoken about in this blog or episode, you can reach out to Help for Heroes and Rape Crisis.

You can also speak to the Samaritans anytime by calling 116-123.

You can download the Hub of Hope app to access mental health support in your area any time.

To follow Tommy you can find him on Twitter @TommyLowther and @SportingForce and on Instagram @SportingForce

The post Tommy Lowther and living with PTSD first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add Comment *

Name *

Email *