Jason Stevens is a veteran of 16 years in the Army. Jason undertook tours in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and spent time in Germany. He was medically discharged from the MOD in 2016, after he suffered a bilateral stoke caused by a hole in his heart. The stroke has left Jason with disabilities, both physical and cognitive. Jason was also diagnosed with PTSD and has been undergoing treatment.
Jason spent some time at Headley Court undergoing rehabilitation following his stroke. He found the only thing that seemed to have any impact on his mental wellness was gardening. He spent many hours gardening in the onsite facility and was allowed day release to work as a gardener one day a week for a local business. Jason felt horticultural work better equipped him mentally to deal with his problems, putting him in the right frame of mind to get the most out of rehabilitation.
After getting all the treatment the MOD was willing to offer, he was medically discharged with a handshake and a goodbye. This was unexpected and left him needing to find a new career, which was not easy for him. After months of searching around for a job he could do given his disabilities, he opened a plant shop in Hastings, East Sussex. Being surrounded by plants in the shop provided Jason with green therapy and a calm and contemplative environment that helped his recovery immensely over the ensuing months and years.
After reading a report of the 42nd veteran suicide this year (2018) and with the number rising on a sometimes daily basis, he knew he had to do something. If he could just save one life no matter the cost he wanted to do it. What better way than the way that still helps him, through horticulture? He sold his business to fund the start of Veterans’ Growth and is committed to providing Horticultural Therapy to Veterans suffering with mental health issues.
Jason feels there are serious gaps in the health care service and professional support networks, therefore we need to be responsible as a community for looking out for veterans. Veterans’ Growth is his way of providing support but please, if you’re reading this and you know a veteran who may need help, reach out and ask if they are ok. If not, please ask them to get in touch to see if we can offer the support and advice they may be looking for.