A few years ago, former Scots Guardsman John Templeton was sleeping rough and contemplating suicide after suffering a mental breakdown.

Struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving in Iraq, he was drinking heavily, out of work and on the brink of losing everything.

But the 50-year-old decided to fight back. He got help for his PTSD and decided to pursue a career as a mental health nurse, recently graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University.

It was no mean feat, but with the help of the university’s scheme for veterans - GCU-HM Forces Learning Partnership - he has managed to turn his life around and overcome the horrors he witnessed while serving with the 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

He said: “In Iraq I witnessed terrible atrocities. I saw the aftermath of civilians, including children, being massacred just because they were Kurdish. I saw villages wiped out and mass graves. Those images have stayed with me all these years.

“I’ve also struggled to cope with the death of a close friend who took his own life during a tour of Northern Ireland. He was only a teenager but the whole nature of the job was just get on with it.”

It was during his PTSD treatment with Combat Stress Scotland that he found out he had many transferable skills he could use in civilian life.

Mr Templeton explained: “At the end of a six-week intensive treatment programme, I was asked by one of the occupational therapists what my plans were for the future.

“I didn’t really have any plans. We spoke about nursing and it was there and then that I decided, after all I’ve been through, I was going to be a mental health nurse.”

He graduated from GCU in November and said the university’s support network helped him through his course.

The institution has now teamed up with Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) and Veterans Scotland to host an event showing how universities and colleges can support ex-military personnel and their families.

Organisers of the event ‘Service Families and Veterans: Why and how should we help?’ , which takes place at GCU on Tuesday, hope it will help to spread the message to the 237,000 veterans currently living in Scotland that education is open to them.

Jim Castle, GCU’s Veterans and Armed Forces champion, said that many of the skills learned by veterans during their time in service can be transferred across different industries.

“All servicemen and women have been trained in battlefield evacuation”, said Mr Castle.

“They learn how to treat someone who has been badly injured, to keep them alive until medics arrive and airlift them to the nearest hospital base.

“This is called ‘the golden hour’, and the theory is that if you can keep someone alive for an hour they will survive. This is a massive skill and they all have it.

“They also have physical fitness, leadership skills, decision making, commitment, respect for others, teamwork, loyalty, integrity, discipline and courage to name just a few.

“In a nutshell, they have a huge range of transferable skills, which combined with education, will maximise their potential and make them highly employable and major assets to society and the economy.”

Kevin Helton, from South Ayrshire, is another veteran who has benefited from the extra support on offer at the university.

The 34-year-old, who served with the Royal Engineers, left the army in 2011 to pursue further education but had to drop out due to mental health issues.

He returned to his studies in 2015 and hopes to graduate this summer with a degree in Building Surveying from GCU.

Mr Helton said: “Jim has been a great help, he is very passionate about the Armed forces and always willing to have a chat. University has opened my eyes to a world outside of the military which was much needed.”

Speakers at Tuesday’s event include GCU principal and vice-chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies, MSPs Annie Wells and Maurice Corry, Scottish Veterans Commissioner Colonel Charlie Wallace and Deputy Commander of 51 Infantry Brigade and HQ Scotland Colonel Sandy Fitzpatrick.

Professor Nolan, principal and vice-chancellor of ENU, said: “Former armed forces personnel have so much to offer in terms of skills and life experience.

“As a university, we are committed to supporting their transition to civilian life and future career development through mentoring programmes for veterans who work with us and flexible entry paths on to degree courses for prospective students.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells said it was “fantastic” that GCU was taking the joint lead in supporting Scotland’s veterans reach their full potential after leaving the military.

Ms Well said: “All too often we hear of cases of those in the military who have been let down upon their attempts to integrate back into civilian life. Initiatives such as this will go a long way in ensuring positive outcomes for those who have served our country so well.”

Mr Templeton added: “I think the GCU-HM Forces Learning Partnership does a great job.

“We need to shout it from the rooftops and let people know about it.”