Mel B has told of her pain over the suicide of her ex-Royal Marine bodyguard after a battle with post-traumatic stress.
The Spice Girl also vented anger at the death of Corporal Ash Nickless, 31, saying more must be done to help armed forces members hit by the harrowing condition.
The Afghan War veteran, who left the Marines four years ago, was found dead at home wearing his ceremonial blues uniform and medals on November 22 – just days after two medical centres turned him away as he sought help.
Mel said it was “a damming indictment of the lack of help for those suffering PTSD who are in such desperate need”.
She added: “I talked a lot to Ash about PTSD. I suffer from it as a result of an emotional abusive marriage and he suffered from it as a result of what he went through and what he saw in war zones.”
Dad-of-one Ash, who served in 45 Commando, was in the army for 12 years. He also worked as a bodyguard for celebs including Ross Kemp and the cast of The Only Way is Essex.
Friends said he began to struggle with his mental health after leaving the Marines. He was wounded in Afghanistan and is understood to have been getting treatment for PTSD for several years.
Ash’s death brings the number of current and former servicemen and women believed to have taken their lives this year to 68.
A further 88 are believed to have taken their lives last year.
Mel, 44, said: “I met Ash more than a year ago because he looked after my daughter Phoenix. He watched out for her like she was his own daughter. She loved him.
“I remember thinking, ‘this man would take a bullet for my child’. Our worlds were so different, but we had a connection.
“When I had to do a tour for my book, Brutally Honest, I wanted him by my side because it was tough for me and he understood trauma on every level. He was with me in the run up to the Spice Girls tour, too.”
Mel said Ash became “part of the family” and it made her cry to think that he had tried to get help only to have doors slammed in his face.
She said: “I guess I now just think, ‘why didn’t he call me?’ But I know he was so very proud and he wanted everyone to believe he could cope. That is devastating.”
Ash was found in North Wales by Lucy Hughes. The mum of three, 42, said: “Ash was like a brother to me, so to find him was devastating.
“This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, Ash had been struggling a long while. He had tried to see his GP, but said he was denied an appointment because he had moved out of the catchment area.
“He was told to try another centre but told me they, too, refused to help.
“There were a lot of people trying to help Ash, but he was failed by a system that isn’t geared up to helping veterans with mental health issues. Ash’s death could have been prevented. I don’t think it was the fault of GPs. Ash fell through the cracks, but he is just one of many.”
After the Marines, Ash started a fitness training business and worked as a close protection officer or bodyguard, and as a security consultant in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Details of his death emerged on social media and a Just Giving page set up to raise £2,000 for funeral costs has topped £17,000.
Former Royal Marine Sergeant Major Jeff Williams, of Veterans United Against Suicide, said Ash’s death was a “preventable tragedy”, adding: “How many have to die by their own hand before the MoD accepts there is a problem?”
And former Army head General Lord Dannatt said veteran suicides are “an epidemic of our time”. He said: “Should the Government have done more? Yes.
“Should some of the more established charities have done more? Yes.”
Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
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