The British Army’s nationwide campaign to reduce the stigma of mental ill health and help soldiers and their families to detect problems early came to Catterick Garrison this week.
The Mental Health Roadshow visited the base on Tuesday to coincide with International Stress Awareness Week as well as the country’s National Stress Awareness Day today.
Heading the show was Brigadier Tim Hodgetts, senior health advisor (Army), who himself had suffered the traumatic effect of an IRA bomb attack in Northern Ireland back in 1991 which left numerous dead and injured when he was a young captain.
Brigadier Hodgetts said the intervention of high profile figures such as Prince William and Prince Harry airing their own difficulties was helping to reduce the stigma of coming forward.
“We are reflecting what is going on in society and having that internal conversation within the Army and making it more acceptable for people to step forward. I think traditionally we would all recognise that there was a perceived stigma and soldiers were worried that it would affect their careers or they would be seen as weak.
“Our evidence shows that if we can detect mental ill health issues early most can be dealt with relatively straightforwardly with some welfare support or medical support without progressing to complex treatments.”
He said it was now recognised in society that mental ill health was as important as physical ill health and the Army’s approach also reflected that change.
But he added that he recognised the Army had faced some tough campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 10 to 20 years during which time many servicemen and women had faced traumatic events and had suffered from mental ill health as a consequence.
“Overall the Army is a very resilient organisation. It is full of very phlegmatic, can do people which is why we are asked to do what we do but we do recognise that some people will suffer from the effects of mental ill health but we are showing that the stigma attached is now being reduced dramatically and people can come forward.”
He said mental resilience training had been introduced for recruits at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick four years ago and that had now been introduced across the whole of the Army.