Care provided to suicidal special forces soldier was inadequate, family say

·3-min read
Cpl Alexander Tostevin was ‘changed’ when he returned from Afghanistan, his family said (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)
Cpl Alexander Tostevin was ‘changed’ when he returned from Afghanistan, his family said (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Archive)

The family of a special forces soldier who took his own life have criticised military mental health services for failing to spot signs that he was not satisfied with the support he was receiving.

Corporal Alexander Tostevin, 28, was found dead in his flat in March 2018, despite extensive contact with mental health teams, who were aware he had suicidal thoughts in the days before his death.

In the months beforehand, he had sought help from veterans mental health charity Rock2Recovery, but was advised to cancel his appointments by the military mental health team.

Following a two-week inquest, Coroner Brendan Allen noted that the fact Cpl Tostevin was seeking alternative options should have been a signal to those around him that his current treatment plan was not working.

Mr Allen said: “When it became known that (Cpl Tostevin) had sought help from Rock2Recovery, the focus from the chain of command in medical was to close that option down.

“There was no consideration as to what (Cpl Tostevin) felt the need to seek alternative treatment, which should have been considered.”

He added: “This represents a missed opportunity to seek to identify (the deceased’s) views about his treatment, and improvements that could have been made to ensure he would have felt listened to.”

Cpl Tostevin’s family had long believed he had developed PTSD after narrowly avoiding death while serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan in 2010, when a bullet struck his helmet.

He had been providing cover fire to allow two comrades to get to safety when he was hit, and was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery.

The inquest heard that he was “changed” when he returned from Afghanistan, and was “silly with girls and money” and would take a cricket bat to bed for safety.

Alison Tostevin, Cpl Tostevin’s mother, said: “Alex was asking for help for a long time and as a family we feel he was failed.

“He wasn’t satisfied with the help he was receiving and looked elsewhere but was ordered not to attend the appointment he made with Rock2Recovery.

“He was not given the support he needed or deserved.”

Mrs Tostevin continued: “We want to thank those who loved our son Alex and did all they could to help him.

“We hope that he is remembered as he was in life – a highly skilled, dedicated, and respected soldier, a loyal friend, fun loving, generous, kind and larger than life in every way – the best son, brother, grandson and friend anyone could ever have.

“We hope more members of the forces will talk about mental health – Alex wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer as he did. We strongly believe that Alex was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD.

“Alex told all those involved in his care that he was unwell an suffering and we believe the care that he received was inadequate.

“We miss Alex so much. We love Alex and will miss him until the day we die, and not until that day will we stop saying his name.”

Giving evidence to the inquest, Cpl Tostevin’s sister, Shelley, said: “All I can think about is what would have happened had Alex got the care he required and deserved.

“I am sure he wouldn’t have died the way he did, on the day he did, had that been the case. He wanted help and treatment, he had asked for it and thought he was going to go to hospital, and he didn’t.”

Family friend Olivia Wynne-James told the hearing: “I had seen him struggle for seven long years after that first tour in Afghanistan. He had given so much of himself and had never received the support and help he needed.

“I had seen so many changes in him – he was moulded into a different person.”

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