Follow for more talkers

Mental Health

Ex-soldier with PTSD helps other vets at castle he built on a mountain

Avatar photo


Gwent solider Mike Allen (Tom Wren via SWNS)

By Lauren Beavis via SWNS

A real-life 'Rambo' soldier with PTSD built a castle on a mountain where he used to sleep rough - and now helps other veterans battle their demons there.

Mikey Allen, 41, says his therapy fort is now busier than ever as military personnel struggle with mental issues because of lockdown.

"We are in a mental health crisis," he said.

''With the COVID-19 lockdowns having a huge impact on many people's deteriorating mental health, our work and services matter now more than ever before," he said.

The ex-lance corporal was diagnosed with PTSD after watching friends killed by bombs in Afghanistan.

His marriage fell apart and he began sleeping rough and in a remote cabin on Mynyddislwyn Mountain in Caerphilly County, Wales.

Gwent solider Mike Allen who found himself homeless and depressed has rebuilt his life through the process of sculpting an impressive castle ruin on the mountainside in Caerphilly County. Newport, Wales. (Tom Wren via SWNS).

Mikey's cabin was later knocked down by officials because he didn't have planning permission - but a local farmer then offered him a space.

During the next three years he used only natural local resources to build his own home fort which is the base of his organization, Endex.

The site includes mental health coaching, employment, adventure training, animal care opportunities and family oriented activities.

It has also helped people with mental health problems, special needs children, stroke survivors and NHS staff.

Mikey, who spent seven months in Afghanistan, said supporting troops and former soldiers is more important than ever.

He said of his time in the Middle East: "I came back a different person.

"I suffered with flashbacks, self-destructive tendencies, depression, homelessness, poverty, suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

"Even though I went through starvation for long periods of time I've came away from two years of homelessness with a deep appreciation for the simple things that can often be taken for granted and an understanding of suffering that cant be taught in books.

"I found employment, started private mental health treatment, and began to understand myself.

Mikey Allen as a serving soldier. (Mikey Allen via SWNS)
« of 5 »

"I started to make progress, reconnecting with friends and family I previously avoided and isolated myself from.

"I began to find direction and purpose."

Mikey was sleeping on friend's sofas until he started to build a cabin high up in the woods.

He found spending time in nature and creating achievable goals helped him feel better.

''From being completely on my last legs, struggling to live and survive, rebuilding the cabin gave me small goals that I could achieve every day, on my own," he said.

"I had no phone, no TV, no radio. Spending so much time in nature, completely isolated away from outside pressures allowed me to find myself again. So, as the cabin grew, so did I.

Then Mikey came home one day to find his cabin reduced to rubble for breaching forestry regulations.

Luckily, a local farming family allowed Mikey to live and rebuild on their land. They offered Mikey their caravan, which he lived in for 18 months.

He started building a fort because of the positive changes the first cabin made on him.

Gwent solider Mike Allen who found himself homeless and depressed has rebuilt his life through the process of sculpting an impressive castle ruin on the mountainside in Wales.(Tom Wren via SWNS)
« of 16 »

"When I started to rebuild the second cabin, lots of people and charities and started to take interest," he said.

''They allowed me to express my thoughts, and with a diverse team of passionate and understanding people, Endex was born."

Mikey's vision was to use the castle to offer a "therapeutic-based support service for veterans.

It promotes ''self-growth, development, worthiness, belief and positive stimulation to achieving goals, surrounded by nature with people willing to listen and understand, to give encouragement and options to better ones-self."

Mikey said: "The aim of the qualifications are that they may lead to employment in an outdoors environment with the work loads potentially reducing stress levels, making the role more sustainable and people suffering health conditions less likely to lose their way.

"There was a significant increase in people visiting during lockdown, many of these being families.

Mikey Allen and Endex team. (Mikey Allen via SWNS)

"I guess it has given people inspiration to create their own goals and engage with nature whilst having to hike a large hill to reach the Castle promoting personal fitness."

So far, the team have received over 2,500 visits to their fort from veterans and military widows.

Mikey is currently writing a book that will reflect upon his experiences.

Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email [email protected] or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

Top Talkers