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London Bridge terror hero: 'mentally it's taken its toll'

BTP officer to run in London Marathon to raise money for PTSD999
Published - 01/02/2019 By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle

A police officer hailed a hero for his response to the London Bridge terror attack has spoken about the lasting impact the incident has had on him and his family.

British Transport Police officer, Leon McLeod, will run in April's London Marathon raising money for the social enterprise PTSD999.

He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery following the incident in June 2017 which he describes as having changed him “beyond comprehension”.

PC McLeod was commended for helping the many innocent people caught up in the attack, including his colleague PC Wayne Marques, but the experience left a mark on him:

“For a long time after the incident I didn’t know anything was wrong,” he said. “I wasn’t looking after myself properly, I wasn’t eating, sleeping or exercising. I threw myself into work and neglected my (now ex) wife and child and really didn’t seek help from the right people soon enough.

“With hindsight I made reckless decisions that had had a massively detrimental effect and hurt a lot of people. I didn’t sustain the injuries - and worse - that so many did on that night but mentally it’s taken its toll.”

Recognising he needed help, PC McLeod first spoke to friends before approaching his supervisors at work. “There is still too much of a taboo about asking for help,” he said. “There is somewhat of a macho nature in society and this is also the case in policing, meaning some people feel it’s better to bottle things up and stay quiet. I feel lucky not to be that kind of person.”

“Work has supported me hugely and my friends have been there, like they were all along. I’ve learnt how to deal with the down days better.”

Feeling stronger and more positive, PC McLeod has turned his attention to helping others who are experiencing similar challenges and will pull on his trainers and join the thousands of runners at the London Marathon start line. He’s hoping to increase awareness of the support PTSD999 offers.

It was founded by former BTP officer Gary Hayes whose Chronic PTSD went undiagnosed for eight years.

“Today's criminality and acts of terrorism bring horrors only seen on the battlefield, “said Mr Hayes. “Officers are dealing with these life-changing situations daily and the impact on them is huge. There are many reasons they don't talk to anyone, the main ones being trust, stigma and the fear of losing their jobs.”

“I wish I had spoken to my mates within the job - I may have still been a police officer now.”

PTSD999 supports all emergency services and, as well as assessing and treating PTSD, provides Trauma Response Awareness training and Psychological Health and Safety.

Mr Hayes added: “We need to look after our people on the front line. That includes our 999 call takers who are very often the forgotten heroes along with family members struggling with the changes they see when their loved ones return home.”

PTSD999 is funded through donations and grants and relies on the support of fundraisers like PC  Visit PoliceOracle.com - the UK's leading independent Policing news website