"I was without hope." Fletch was ready to end his own life then someone asked him a question.

Warning: This post contains mentions of suicide and may be triggering to some readers.

Former veteran, Michael ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, was days away from taking his life when a well-meaning question saved him.

After being discharged from the army in the 90s due to a training accident, the former soldier suffered decades of poor mental health, including PTSD.

After stints at a psychiatric hospital, Fletch had spent the past few years living out of his ute, sleeping in his front seat. Unable to afford a swag, in winter it would get so cold he’d spend the entire night awake, unable to sleep.

For years, Veteran Michael ‘Fletch’ Fletcher was homeless and living out of his ute. Post continues below.

Video by The Project

Then Martin Shaw, CEO of Australian veterans charity Wounded Heroes, reached out just in time.

“I was without hope. I just felt nobody gave a sh*t,” he told The Project’s Steve Price in June, 2019.

“Martin Shaw from Wounded Heroes saved my life. He just had to ask me one question: ‘Are you okay digger?’ and I broke down.

“Tried to give me money. Didn’t even know me from a bar of soap. He gave me a food voucher and a fuel voucher and made me promise I would come see him the next day.”

After being given some much needed support, temporary housing, mental health treatment, Fletch progressively got better.

“They put their arms around me, and they saved my life,” he said.

“They’re unsung heroes.”

The Project Wounded Heroes
Fletch slept in the front seat of his ute for three years. Image: Channel 10.

Five months later, Fletch made his second appearance on The ProjectThanks to the outpouring of donations from the public from his first interview, a team of Sydney dentists from Bondi's Malo Dental Clinic reached out with an offer to change his life. They wanted to gift him with a dental implant surgery worth $50,000.

After watching Fletch's initial interview, they noticed the veteran was missing a considerable number of his teeth, and they were eager to give him back his smile - something he was previously unable to do. To do this, Fletch required a three hour surgery, before a custom-made set of teeth could be implanted onto his teeth.

"I really have isolated myself a lot, because of the way I looked. I just accepted this was the way I was going to be for the rest of my life," said Fletch.

"Now [I'm] able to interact with people again, and not feel like a leper."

Capturing Fletch's first time looking at his toothy self in the mirror, the former soldier welled up with tears.

The Project Wounded Heroes
Image: Channel 10.

Apart from a renewed confidence, his new smile has also given Fletch a better quality of life. Speaking to the panel, Price explained that before the surgery, he was only able to eat two-minute noodles, but soon his culinary options would be endless.

"For the first time in 10 years, he was able to eat properly," he said.

"In three months time, the Malo Clinic is going to take him out and shout him a steak."

According to research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the suicide rates of veteran men are significantly higher than that of other Australian men. Veteran men over 30 are 18 per cent more likely to take their own life, with veteran men under 30 twice as likely to take their own life, compared to other Aussie men in their age group.

Furthermore, 2019 statistics from VincentCare estimates that almost 5,800 veterans, like Fletch, will experience homelessness over a 12 month period.

Now with a completely new and revived outlook, Fletch's story is evidence of the recovery and rehabilitation that can happen with just a little bit of empathy, care, and attention. Having been through the system - and its failures - Fletch is critical of the current government services available to discharged veterans, and is adamant the government needs to provide better support to former Australian Defence Force members doing it tough.

"I absolutely needed help," he said of his mental health back in June.

"It's embarrassing to admit that you're sick. You just want to function like other people."

You can find out more about, or donate to Wounded Heroes Australia here.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.