Prince Harry to help tackle mental health in the Armed Forces
The Armed Forces and their families will be given new mental health training to deal with military life under an initiative between the Ministry of Defence and the young Royals. The venture will see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry expand their campaigning against the stigma of mental illness to provide advice and information for the Forces. Soldiers, sailors and airmen will be encouraged to take their mental health as seriously as their physical fitness. New training and support will also be rolled out across defence to reservists, veterans and civil servants. Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, will say that the military must be “as serious about improving mental health as we are our combat skills and cutting-edge technology”. The MOD earlier this year said it would shake up mental health policy amid accusations its is failing a generation of troops and veterans scarred by the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. Last year, the military mental health charity Combat Stress reported a surge in referrals of veterans with problems such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder. The charity said the number of veterans needing help for mental health problems had jumped by 71 per cent in the previous five years. The MoD said the scheme would see troops “encouraged to use psychology and well-being in the same way as athletes do to maximise performance”. The plan will also emphasise “the idea that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness when working as part of the Armed Forces”. In a speech marking World Mental Health Day, Sir Michael is expected to say: “By looking after our mental health we are building a more effective armed forces that helps keep this country safe.” Under the scheme, the Royal Foundation will help the MoD improve training, education and information sharing for the entire Armed Forces. The work will include annual briefings, websites and specialist support to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health. The new training will be built into staff training courses and briefing from the middle of next year and will be online. A government source said: “Often mental health is seen as about picking up the pieces after something terrible has happened, rather than being proactive about it. “Equipping our soldiers isn’t just about saying here’s the body armour, here’s the physical fitness and if something goes wrong here’s someone to talk to, it’s about active engagement. Prince Harry revealed earlier this year that he had sought counselling to help come to terms with his mother’s death. The Duke has praised high-profile figures who have opened up about their mental health struggles and said “There may be a time and a place for the ‘stiff upper lip’, but not at the expense of your health.” Sir Keith Mills, chairman of the Royal Foundation, said: “We are delighted that this new partnership with the Ministry of Defence will see the UK leading the way internationally in prioritising the mental fitness of its entire defence community.” “Mental health also is something which needs to be for active troops not just veterans.” The Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry have been praised for their calls to remove taboos over mental illness and for their work with injured military veterans at the Invictus Games.