A disabled soldier taking part in new TV reality challenge show The Bridge today praises Prince Harry for saving the lives of thousands of war veterans like him.
Ross Austen, blown up by a Taliban IED, says the royal has helped build a vital bridge of his own for ex-service personnel suffering in silence with mental issues.
Ross, 38, who lost a leg in the blast in Afghanistan in 2008, said: “In the military mental health still is quite a taboo subject.
“But when Harry talked about his mental health, that was a big thing. He’s a royal and a soldier – so him speaking out made it easier for others to do the same.”
Ross was awarded a 2016 Invictus Games powerlifting silver medal by the prince, who admitted the following year that he’d needed therapy 20 years after the death of his mother.
Now Ross is part of a team of 12 strangers trying to build a bridge across a lake to an island to win a £100,000 prize.
But the former 24 Commando Royal Engineer reckons he has already faced bigger challenges than those posed by the Sunday night Channel 4 series narrated by James McAvoy.
“I went through some dark times in hospital,” he said. “And after discharge my mental health was really, really bad.
“For me now it’s like this is extra life. I want to live every day as if it was my last.”
Dad-of-one Ross, from Devon, says he won’t let his disability hold him back as he and his co-contestants battle to use anything they can find in a Welsh wilderness to build their 250-metre long bridge to victory.
“Whatever the challenge, I will find a way to complete it,” he said.