A Charity offering personal help and advice for all serving and former members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, their Reserves and Families

Combating the Stigma of Mental Illness in a Commercial World

Published 05/04/2017 11:07:00, by Emma Copland

We have been a Nation at war for over 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, Former Yugoslavia and many other places too. We do what we do best as military people in all environments but tragically we sometimes emerge visibly or not visibly injured.  The world understands the sight of a missing limb or body trauma, but it doesn’t understand fully that of the mental impact that war or a traumatic incident may have. Just like a visible injury, we don’t choose to be mentally injured – it just happens, sometimes years after the event! The outside world is starting to adapt and understand much more the issues of mental health.  Indeed, Samaritans and other organisations in the corporate world positively encourage discussion around understanding a persons needs.  They realise that mental illness does not stop you from succeeding, it does not mean that you are anyway unable to achieve what you want to achieve – in a lot of cases the opposite.  Organisations like the Oxford Mindfulness Centre enable people with mental illness to fully understand what it really is and gives them the tools to deal and in many many cases, conquer it.  Mindfulness is but one tool in a growing armoury of others becoming more and more available.  

Stepping into the civilian world is daunting for some and for others a challenge they cannot wait to do.  The corporate world is unforgiving in many areas but realises that the service person is a valuable asset that may come with restrictions from combat, be it visible or invisible.  The corporate world is trying hard to understand and integrate, adapt and see the benefit a wounded veteran can give.  Sometimes the internal battle has just begun as one leaves the service, but remember that fear in most cases stands for False Evidence Appearing Real; the pressure we put on ourselves to succeed is immense.  You are not alone if you are reading this and thinking ‘that’s me’. There are thousands of people that have been through the same issues and stand there ready to help. 

How do I know? I left the military in 2008 with a mild form of PTSD, went into the city and now am further forward than I ever thought I would be.  I talk about my experience (probably too much!), but it proves you can succeed and that people are desperate to understand something which, unless you have been there in those dark and desperate times, is difficult to do.  I now talk and help hundreds of people through the same difficulties.  If you want to chat feel free to reach out to me through the WEA.  They are there to help too.  Good Luck – you will succeed and remember you are certainly not alone.

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