In 2007, while stationed in Afghanistan, Canadian soldier Jay McArthur stopped on his way to the shower to call his Mum. Moments later, an enemy rocket hit the nearby shower stalls killing one of his friends and seriously injuring another. Jay, instead of a casualty, became a first responder to the tragic scene. 

After the incident, Jay began experiencing regular panic attacks as his sense of safety in everyday situations became distorted. His mental health deteriorated. Some months after the incident, he reached out for help in dealing with his anxiety and what would later be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After several unwanted re-assignments, Jay was medically released from the military in March 2015. The transition to civilian life was difficult. Jay had been in the military for 14 years, most of his adult life, and found himself without a network, without a job and without a purpose.

Exacerbated by his PTSD, Jay fell into a depression, drinking away the day after he had dropped his kids off at school in the morning.

Having left the military and unsure what to do next, Jay decided to make a stab at becoming a home inspector. He had an interest in helping homeowners, some experience in home renovations and liked the flexibility offered by self-employment. The idea of being his own boss appealed to him and being able to set his own schedule meant that he would have more time to spend with his kids and more time to take care of his mental health.

Jay heard about Prince’s Trust Canada’s Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE) programme that provides transitioning military and veterans from across Canada with the education, tools and resources they need to build confidence, develop networks and run their own successful businesses. After an introductory session, Jay submitted an application and enrolled.

At boot camp, he found like-minded people, positivity and a determination to succeed. The experience sparked something within Jay. He left the boot camp with a clearer idea of his business and where he wanted to take it, a better understanding of his customer, a pack of useful resources, a new network of supporters and a newfound energy and excitement.

Armed with this positivity, he completed a re-brand of his business and has since doubled his home inspection numbers.

The desire to serve others, which took Jay into the army in the first place, has never left him.

There’s more to life than making money. It’s finding your purpose. It’s helping others. That’s what drives me.

His successful business reflects that value as does his commitment to helping other veterans succeed and overcome mental health issues.

Despite the nervousness he sometimes feels at public speaking, Jay has become an ambassador for the programme. He volunteers his time to speak at workshops, networking events and represents the programme at the Canadian Armed Forces Second Career Assistance Network seminars. He inspires and encourages wherever he goes and has gone on to meet HRH The Prince of Wales, as well as being featured by CBC National News.

Jay acknowledges that it’s not always easy and still battles with his PTSD. But he says having a purpose, helping others, contributing to his community, spending time with his kids and being excited about growing his business gets him through it.