Steven Murphy was just three when his dad, Lance Corporal John Murphy, took his own life. It had a devastating impact on the youngster and by the time he’d reached his teenage years, his mental health had deteriorated so much, his mother feared he’d follow in his father’s footsteps and turn to suicide.
But thanks to Scotty’s Little Soldiers – a charity the Veterans’ Foundation supports – he’s now turned 18 and is looking forward to university life.
It’s a remarkable story - and one the VF is proud to have played its part in.
“I know that organisations like the Veterans’ Foundation play a huge part and donations from them make it possible for Scotty’s to do what they do and I’m so grateful for that,” said Steven, who joined the charity at seven years old.
“I wouldn’t have got through my childhood without Scotty’s.”
Lance Corporal Murphy died on 7 January 2007 after serving 16 years with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. He left behind a young family - wife Rachel, and along with Steven, two-year-old Emily.
The day his dad died changed Steven’s life forever, but it was during his teenage years when Steven really started to struggle. His mental health declined so severely that his mum, Rachel, was fearful for his life.
As Steven has grown up, he’s learnt to manage and process his grief and channel his emotions into something productive.
One constant pillar of support for Steven over the years has been Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity set up to offer integral support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
His teenage years were some of the most challenging. His mum Rachel explained:“Steven went through a really dark period, he’d say to me, ‘I want to talk to dad to ask him why he did what he did’, I was terrified that he meant he didn’t want to be here anymore. I couldn’t wait 18 months for him to get some help, so I phoned Nikki at Scotty’s Little Soldiers in floods of tears, and she was able to arrange a referral to a counsellor for Steven in two weeks.”
Steven added: “It was a very rough period; at times I didn’t know whether I’d get through it. There were points during that time when I was really bad, but since then I’ve improved so much. The support provided by Scotty’s during this period was invaluable, they were able to refer me to a specialist counsellor who has really helped me through my issues. This wouldn’t have been possible without Scotty’s.”
Steven’s outlook today is very different. He recently set up a small business selling upcycled vintage clothes online and has an unconditional offer in place to study Business Management at Plymouth University.
He’s also waiting to take his driving test. And these achievements he credits in part to Scotty’s Little Soldiers, and the support programmes it offers – Smiles, Support and the grants available through its Strides programme. He said: “The grants available through Scotty’s have made a huge difference, I have used the Scotty’s Driving Grant and will be taking my driving test soon. I also have an unconditional offer at Plymouth University to study business management next year and will be able to use the Scotty’s higher educational grant to help support my fees.”
And his mum Rachel couldn’t be prouder, she added: “Steven has overcome everything that life has put in his way. He’s overcome some amazing hurdles and the incredible help Scotty’s gave him was just what he needed at the right time.”
Steven turned 18 on 28th April and has since graduated from Scotty’s to the charity’s Springboard programme. The programme has been specifically designed to support bereaved Forces young adults, aged 18– 25, ensuring that as soon as a young person reaches adulthood that they receive support that is suitable for their developing needs.
Steven said: “Knowing Scotty’s is there, even though I am 18, is comforting. They have always been there for me, they’ve made a big difference to my life, they understand me and make sure I never feel alone, so keeping that support network, even into adulthood will be a huge benefit.
Scotty’s Little Soldiers was set up in 2010 by war widow Nikki Scott and offers integral support to children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the Armed Forces.
The Veterans’ Foundation has provided Scotty’s a number of grants in the last few years and Nikki acknowledges how crucial they’ve been.
“We really value the relationship the team at Scotty’s has with the Veterans’ Foundation and we are so grateful for their continued support,” said Nikki.
“The generous grants they have awarded Scotty’s over the years have enabled us to support hundreds of bereaved Forces children and young people. It means so much to know we can make a difference to their lives.”
*If you’d like to support military charities like Scotty’s, you can do so by playing the Veterans’ Lottery
*To find out more about Scotty’s, click here.