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Mental health awareness.

Discussion in 'General Royal Marines Joining Chit Chat' started by Johnny_Anonie, May 11, 2019.

  1. Johnny_Anonie

    Johnny_Anonie Moderator

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    Folks,

    May I lend your eyes for a minute and ask you to cast your eyes over this. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes or so to read.

    After leaving the military I joined the Police. As part of the specialist role I was employed to carry out, a rather unpleasant byproduct was I came into regular contact with dead bodies. I was subsequently deployed as one of the first officers into the heinous MEN arena attack. A night that will never leave me.

    I became passionate about mental health awareness. Particularly with former colleagues & oppos from my time in the Army. (I was a combat medic attached to the infantry)

    Mental health awareness in the military is coming on leaps & bounds. The stigma is slowing chipping away, which is fantastic. As this forum hosts an array of young people who are to become our next generation of soldiers, commandos, Naval ranks I wanted to share. There is no weakness in having mental health issues. Even in recruit training, you may feel low. It might be just the fact it is your first time away from home & coming to terms with the change in lifestyle. But look out for eachother. You’ll be better troops for it!

    Talk to an oppo you feel needs a helping hand. Don’t shy away from it or label them as broken. Often a chat & a brew (sorry a wet....) is all it takes. Royal Marines in particular in my experience have a cracking appreciation of the power of mentality.

    As part of a bit of expression therapy I wrote a short blog for the mental heath foundation once. Obviously I had to “civilianise” it a tad for dirty rotten civvies. But the message, I hope, is clear. I will post below.

    Thanks all.

    Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 will take place from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019. Have a google as there may be stuff in your local area going on.
     
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  2. Johnny_Anonie

    Johnny_Anonie Moderator

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    5D3DB9EF-DAAC-465E-93F3-D3FB919220EF.jpeg I was awoken from my slumber by the commotion of heavy footsteps making their way towards my bed, who ever was walking briskly towards me certainly wasn’t tip toeing. I rolled onto my back and began rubbing my eyes. I held my left arm in front of my face and pressed the light button on my digital watch. The dim yellow glow of my watch confirmed my fear. It was 01:55hrs. I quickly cocooned myself back inside my sleeping bag.

    I knew what was coming next. The sound of the footsteps stopped and I could sense a tall figure standing over me. The figure bent at the waist so his face lowered right down next to my head. He was so close I could now smell the coffee on his breath. He whispered “Wake up- You are on Stag”

    I responded by groaning and mustered the energy to reply “I only just got to sleep”

    My attempts to elicit sympathy fell on deaf ears and the response was “Ok, See you up there in five minutes”

    On operational tour sentry duty (aka Stag) is the critical task of providing protection for the men of your unit. You effectively act as a lookout and armed guard whilst they sleep or go about their daily routine. This duty was covered 24 hours a day. During daylight hours this was manned by one soldier and during the hours of darkness it was manned by two.

    So that night, a colleague and myself had the 02:00-04:00 duty. The death stag. I particularly hated this duty as it came just as I was my most comfortable in bed and by the time it finished I didn’t have long until I had to get up.

    I pried myself out of my warm sleeping bag and got dressed. Donned my helmet and body armour and I lifted my assault rifle. I made my way up the rickety wooden steps that lead to our basic looking sanger (See photograph above).

    I settled myself down on the makeshift seat we had made out of a collection of old ammo tins. Moments later my friend climbed the stairs holding two steaming hot coffees in polystyrene cups. “Who needs starbucks” he said.

    The Taliban were not stupid, they knew we had access to sophisticated night vision and weapon systems that could engage them from a great distance-so they never attacked us during the hours of darkness. The local Taliban were probably tucked up in bed whilst I sat looking out at the darkness.

    We had been trained that when you are on stag at night you do not talk or do anything that will take your focus from watching for the enemy. But the truth is, I had some of my best conversations whilst on stag. Everything from learning about each others life to sorting out the world’s problems. I think we solved the conflict in Afghanistan at least twenty times during our discussions up there.

    I noticed that on this particular duty my friend appeared quiet. This wasn’t anything too alarming as it was the early hours of the morning and we were both exhausted. I was also aware that from time to time all of us got homesick. None the less, as I sipped my brew I asked him how he was. He replied “Fine” but I didn’t buy it.

    As a Combat medic I was trained in “Trauma Risk identification Management” otherwise referred to as “TRiM”

    As well as providing medical support out in the field I was also expected to identify those most at risk of developing PTSD and ensure that support was provided at an early stage. TRiM is designed to identify individuals at risk after traumatic incidents. It was found that people are often reluctant to talk to strangers when they are in difficulty, and often it’s their friends or colleagues who they turn to for help. For this reason, TRiM whilst I was in Afghanistan was delivered by soldiers who were out on the frontline.

    Just by gently directing the conversation I was able to encourage him to open up about how he was feeling. This allowed me to assess that my friend was struggling to process traumatic events he had witnessed. All I did was listen. That is all anyone has to do.

    We chatted about what he had seen and I reassured him that stress like this is a normal reaction to abnormal events. I could feel the mood lifting and not long after my friend began to laugh. Then we heard an angry hushed voice from the camp hiss at us “Will you two shut up”. We just laughed it off.

    It is the attitudes of others that will stop anyone with a mental health issue from seeking the help and support they deserve.

    I have recently became a TRiM practitioner within the Police as well as being a frontline response officer. I am using the skills I learnt in the Army to assist my Police colleagues. I have learnt that being open about mental health can break down the stigma that wrongly surrounds it. You don’t need to be a healthcare professional or a Police Officer. You don’t need to go on a course or be specially trained. You just need the ability to listen.

    Oh and a kettle, mugs and tea bags also help!

    Thanks for reading.

    (Note the really secure Sanger we had in one of our CP’s in Nad I Ali!)
     
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  3. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    I believe that the RM are recruiting for TRiM. I haven't suffered from any issues, probably due to the fact that my operational tours were in NI, although I was there during mid 1972 with 40 Cdo and we suffered two killed and seventeen wounded, so that was pretty heavy.

    My former son in law was diagnosed with PTSD after the Falklands war, which he served in as an 18 year old sprog just out of training and I know of many more like him.

    I do think it needs to be recognised that those who aspire to join the armed forces, particularly front line units, are not joining to become phys ninjas, who can flex their biceps and show off their six packs, but they will be trained to kill people and to kill them before they kill you. Hopefully, for the majority, they will not be put in that position, but if they are and they are affected by it, help is there.

    Alan
     
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  4. Rob20

    Rob20 Royal Marines Commando

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    As a sprog I can tell you there are TRiM lectures and briefs during the latter weeks of training at CTC now.

    Seems there is an official process in place now to help lads deal with traumatic events.
     
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  5. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker Admin

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    I think we're moving in the right direction although feel the fall out from the conflict in Afghanistan is gathering momentum. When we are young, we all feel we're invincible, as we age, we get more risk averse (sensible :D ).

    During the Falklands campaign, if your ship was sunk, you got ten days survivor's leave, genuinely. I suspect that was a carry-over from WW2.

    From an RN perspective, it was a bit like falling off a bike and getting back on it - the first thing you did after returning from the Falklands was go back down there. At the time there was no early warning radar, so there were four warships on station providing early warning & air defence. Each deployment was 6 months long and for about two years post conflict, just about every RN warship did a couple of deployments until the runways were extended and the air defence aspect was established.

    Every time an aircraft was detected, you went to action stations...believe me, it wore you down. I spent my time nailing blancmanges to the deckhead.
     
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  6. The guide

    The guide Royal Marines Commando

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    Great post by Johnny..!

    For lads and parents of lads joining...The Corps actually has one of the best TRiM & support processes in place of any of the branches of the armed forces..With most CSM,s (Company Sgt Majors) completing the course along with most company medics now also, they also have embedded mental health nurses at the units (Poole has one permanently) also the way training is conducted , in approach , language , downward communication (how people are spoken to) , and also how future expectations detailed also the initial selection process in AFCO,s in slightly more in depth than our Army counterparts (Infantry) in the main.

    The whole PTSD thing is complex to say the least , but if you can think about dislocation of expectation it helps...A RM for example expects to be in action and somehow the minds prepares itself for this . but the little RAF guy who suddenly gets mortared in Bastion is seldom prepared mentally so they do (can) suffer disproportionately which is very much borne out but the figures.

    Sadly the one "job" trade that gets forgotten about is quite often the Medics who by the nature of their job see all the worst side of combat and many of my friends have or are now suffering , so any information and wider understanding of the issue is a good thing.
     
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  7. TheRubberDagger

    TheRubberDagger Royal Marines Commando

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    I think we are all aware of the stigma around mh, so lets try and relax, breath in, and tell someone if you are struggling. You don't need to shout about it, just quietly tell an oppo, relative or colleague that you trust. You'll feel much better and stronger for it.
     
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  8. Johnny_Anonie

    Johnny_Anonie Moderator

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  9. GreyWing

    GreyWing Nobody

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    I hope people don't read this the wrong way, I'm not wanting to go against the grain for arguments sake. I've just genuinely got concerns with a few things with the way society looks at mental health these days. I'm going to risk coming across as the world's biggest *text deleted**text deleted* here but it is an important issue and one worth the risk.

    I hope @Johnny_Anonie you can accept that non of this is aimed at what you have experienced. I'm talking very very general issues here. I've read your blog and it's pretty bad.

    For me I almost feel like a lot of people are convincing themselves they have mental health issues because of peer pressure, what they see on tv, it's what is expected after seeing a traumatic event. If you don't get PTSD then their must be something wrong with you - so may as well just have it. In a way it's like a vicious circle, the more society treats PTSD, the more victims there seems to be.

    I point to the example of the run of suicides in a Welsh village about 10-20 years ago. Something like 20 kids topped themselves, because they saw the attention that the previous one got, they saw how their mates cried at the grave side, the pictures in the media. It was only when the parent of the 20th kid told the media to *text deleted* off, stop reporting it and banned other kids from the funeral that it ceased.

    I know some will say that I've never had PTSD or similar, but how would they know, how would I even know? It would be like saying that that guy hasn't had a broken leg because he's walking fine now.

    I've seen friends off to the docs and on all this anti depressant garbage. Makes me bloody mad, putting someone into an emotional coma because it keeps them quiet. I've never touched a drug in my life, never touched alcohol and there is a lot to be said for a good nights sleep when it comes to curing that down feeling, along with a good sense of humour. But sadly, no money to be made for professional charities in those.

    Everyone's aim is the same, it's to stop suicides and self harm. I'm raising things here that I have seen from my experience of things. The way I dealt with them, how it changed me and accepting that this is who you are now. Bottling it up, is also a perfectly normal solution and there is nothing wrong in it in my opinion. Everyone finds their own way, if they are left to find the answer for themselves then I believe they stand a better chance than having one provided by others.

    Is there such a thing has mental health issues, yes of course. Does everyone that commits suicide or self harm have real mental health issues, I don't think they have, I think society tells them they have and they believe it and then ironically probably end up with a real one.

    Apologies to those that may be offended.
     
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  10. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker Admin

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    Fully agree there is very much the danger of believing that anyone experiencing trauma should automatically inherit a disorder.

    Equally, when experiencing trauma, it is totally natural to feel disturbed or upset.

    One thing we frequently see in AFCOs is people who have, for example, experienced bereavement or got a bit stressed during their GCSEs or A Levels then assumed there is a pill to fix a naturally occuring and fully justified temporary emotion. All too often, for example, grief is confused with depression: https://www.royalmarines.uk/threads...ous-in-relation-to-bereavement-read-on.73531/

    I guess it's all about balance. If, after a good deal of recovery time has elapsed, and the original event is still causing significant behavioural issues, then it is certainly worth seeking help and guidance.
     
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  11. The guide

    The guide Royal Marines Commando

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    Yep i also agree as a society wide issue it is over done in many areas , that makes true cases even harder to spot and these poor individuals get sidelined because of the over use within today's society.
     
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  12. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    I cannot claim any clinical expertise but undiagnosed PTSD is also an issue. Men and women who claim that they were unaffected by previous experiences because they haven't made a connection with behaviour and attitudes that others see. Symptoms don't always manifest themselves in the way they are popularly imagined.

    I understand that childbirth is only now being recognised as being a potential cause of PTSD symptoms. It's a complex subject.
     
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  13. westy

    westy Well-Known Member

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    I work in patient transport and mental health hospitals are full of people who are there for DLA/PIP!! The Drs and nurses know too!!
     
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  14. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Whatever one's views on this topic talking about it is what matters.
     
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  15. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    There was a great article in today's Daily Telegraph under the title of "We must end the insincerity about troops' mental health".

    I do not have access to the online Telegraph, but if anyone does it's worth a read.

    Alan
     
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  16. Johnny_Anonie

    Johnny_Anonie Moderator

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    @GreyWing

    You’ve really upset me. The only thing that will help now is you buying me multiple pints of Guinness.

    Seriously though- I don’t think it’s you going against the grain at all mate, it fact I think it’s an extremely valid & important point. One I agree wholeheartedly with.

    I think we have become a society of extremes. Society’s approach to conversations surrounding mental ill health is just another example of how we have taken a good idea to an extreme that has turned a solution into yet another problem.

    The celebrity culture can make it seem like having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It can seem like the latest must-have.

    There are attention seekers out there. We can’t deny that. There are individuals who can’t wait to take to social media to share their latest bout of mental darkness with the world. Lets not pretend there isn’t, but there must be a line that is drawn. And it’s that space between those genuinely in need & those who seek sympathy that people fall through the cracks.

    Just as some feel as a stigma/embarrassment about talking. Some feel like they might be dismissed as just another attention seeker.

    The mind is a tricky and sometimes cruel beast to tame. I think this thread as @Chelonian has pointed out has already achieved something really important. We are talking about it. We don’t need to medicalise all of life’s struggles.

    From a military perspective we must always strive for operational effectiveness. By instilling in recruits that the power of conversation, banter, dark humour and just lowering bravado and being human is a strength- we can maintain healthy attitudes on ops.

    My time in Afghan was described as “very kinetic”. In other words- it was mental (pun definitely intended). We were scrapping most days. As a multiple we collectively understood the importance of endurance of pain & hardship. But we’d chat about it, we’d process it and we’d pick the blokes who were having a wobble up.

    We still patrolled our AO daily, we still had contacts, and ultimately we still killed the enemy.

    As a Police Officer, I spend entire shifts dealing with “mental health”
    But I also attend a lot of sudden deaths, a great number being suicides. In fact I’ve deployed to three this month and it’s what... the 13th?

    What helps me might not help others. But I don’t think we can go wrong by encouraging conversation & looking out for your oppos.
     
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  17. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    In recent years there was a 'fast track' referral to specialist diagnosis, counselling and therapy services via one's GP for military veterans. Unsure if the scheme is still current.

    Edited to add: Unsure if it was a national scheme or just regional. I believe that this is the south-east England link:

    https://www.veteransservicelse.nhs.uk
     
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  18. GreyWing

    GreyWing Nobody

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    What happens if we are wrong about this very widely held belief though? I'd happily sit and listen to anyone that wanted to chat, it's the encouraging point that is getting me concerned.

    There is a mental disorder that is linked to over analysing and over thinking an issue. It isn't well known and doesn't have the tag that PTSD does. I believe it's called "overthinking disorder" From what I know about it, it will lead people down some equally as dark paths and is equally as dangerous at PTSD.

    Sometimes I wonder if a lot of mental health issues that people think they have started out as PTSD but have been magnified into this overthinking disorder by outside factors.

    Why I have concerns about is is that memories of events tend to fade and even change, it's almost like its the brain own way of curing itself. The overthinking disorder won't fade, it will continue to get stronger and stronger until the mind destroys itself. It's like this never ending circle of trying to find a question, then trying to find an answer/solution to a question that isn't there. That kind of thinking will destroy most people over time.

    I wonder if the cure for a lot of people who think they have PTSD lies in the same place that solves over analysation?

    Sometimes I just feel like "bottling it up" gets a bad reputation, when it's often just another term for not over analyzing an issue.

    I want to make clear to anyone reading it that I'm not a doctor and nor do I have ever studied the evidence or the data out there. I'm going purely off my own experiences.

    Well if you are ever over on the sunnier side of the Pennines I will indeed buy you a Guinness or two :).
     
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