There have been increasing reports as to the decline of our military personnel’s mental wellbeing, with a report from the King’s College London research comparing surveys from 7,000 military personnel with people in other jobs.
It found that 18% of men and 25% of women in the forces reported symptoms of common mental disorders, compared with only 8% of men and 12% of women in other areas. Though it must be remembered, that the stigma associated with mental illness within the military, especially the Army, would have lead to not all of those questioned being honest or even realising that there is anything wrong.
Then most recently a House of Commons Defence Committee report stated that UK military personnel, veterans and their families are being “completely failed” when they need mental health care. It went on to say that it was a “scandal” that a shamefully small” part of the UK’s £150bn health budget was spent on support for veterans, at less than £10m a year and demand for support was “swamping” the capacity with individuals having to wait over two years for treatment.
These are only a handful of reasons as to why Veterans have been responsible for being proactive and looking at ways where they could best support their fellow brothers and sisters. During 2018 we saw 85 military personnel and Veterans die by suicide, that we know of, with this number likely to be higher and as of 13th June 19 the number reported by Veterans United Against Suicide for this year is 29. Even one person feeling like they have no support, are alone or any other way out than taking their own lives is too many!
Veterans have been appealing to the Government and Military brass for over two years now, with a number of organisations being formed to support those with Mental Health struggles and continue the campaign with the Government, such as Veterans United Against Suicide. There have been letters written, petitions signed and marches on Whitehall completed, yet the Government and Military still refuse to listen to those who are seeing the realities of what is really happening and have vastly more invaluable experience.
I can report that an inside source informed me of a recent MOD research group meeting, which included representatives from all the major charities, organisations and Military Tri-Service. They were told that the MOD are in fact asking Coroners NOT to report of a suicide victim who is a Veteran, as it cannot be clear that the Military is wholly responsible! Now make of this what you will, but how much do you think it would harm their recruitment campaign, if it got out that nearly 100 Veterans a year die through Suicide, due to mental ill health?
My experiences as a Veteran with a mental illness, of someone who has battled through my own transition back into society then on into business and one who has now built a respected reputation as a mental health professional and trainer, were always intended to be used for the good of others.
Like other Veterans up and down the country, we have offered our time for free, to speak to those still serving in the military about our story, our experiences and the importance of understanding about Resilience, Stressors, Talking to those you trust and Mental Health in general. A truly valuable opportunity and one that organisations pay us well financially for, so we would attend their venue and share with their employees the same important elements of which they are truly grateful.
Increasingly though, Veterans are being turned away by units stating that they have been informed by Brigade that they cannot have external professionals attend the unit, regardless of them being Veterans. Myself, along with another Veteran, who is trained in Psychology, was due to speak to a number of Army Reservists, when suddenly we were informed that Brigade had stated they cannot use external, Veteran mental health professionals to discuss mental health and so a SO1 Lieutenant Colonel was going to provide a talk to them instead.
I am sure the SO1 Lt Col has some form of training, though even if they had a PHD in Psychology this is not about their competence in anyway, it is about how well those in the audience will be able to relate to them or more importantly, how well the SO1 can relate to the audience. It is equivalent to the CEO of a company speaking to the factory employees about mental health, how relatable would he/she be to them and how many employees would feel comfortable enough to speak openly about their mental health? Whilst the Military and Government might be investing an additional £10m on providing support for the mental wellbeing of its service personnel and Veterans, as they keep reminding us of, how well are they actually spending it and how big a disconnect is there between those in the ivory tower and the poor buggars on the shop floor?
When I work with organisations, regardless of their size, we always talk about their workplace culture and when looking at what mental health strategy would be most efficient, it is always those who gain the most engagement from its employees and including them by asking what they think can be implemented, improved or changed.
Through interacting with Veterans, including them within the Military’s own mental wellbeing strategy and benefitting from the invaluable experiences they have, is a resource that is by far more cost effective compared to implementing yet another telephone helpline. This would also benefit the Veterans, through reducing isolation, empowering them to talk about their experiences which in turn aids their recovery, improving the relationship between current serving and Veterans, which is ashamedly distant, and most importantly bringing us Veterans back into the fold, rather than being shut out and shunned.Tags: Armed Forces, mental health, mental illness, Military, MOD, PTSD, Suicide, Veterans