Prince Harry warns military charities to drop publicity battles and put veterans first
Prince Harry has warned military charities they must stop competing for publicity and profile, urging them to put the health of veterans above their “individual brands”. The Prince, who served in the Armed Forces for a decade, said there must be “no excuses” for the numerous charities aimed at helping veterans failing to align, arguing they are currently losing “good people” from the system. In a major speech, the Prince warned that veterans needing help with their mental health come up against a “confusing array of support”, with “extra layers and complication” thanks to numerous organisations. The Prince and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have recently worked to bring charities including Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and Walking with the Wounded together under the banner of Contact, a partner of Heads Together. Speaking at the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London, the Prince disclosed he had taken his fiancee Meghan Markle to visit Colchester Garrison, where they heard stories from veterans that “shocked us to our core”. Hailing the “significant develop-ments” in the way charities worked together as part of Contact, he said each had recognised that “we needed to put our organisational differences aside to better support the Armed Forces and veteran community”. “We have all been guilty of adding extra layers and complication to an already confusing array of support,” he said. The Prince, founder of the Invictus Games for wounded and sick veterans, has previously worked extensively to raise the profile of Walking With the Wounded, including accompanying them on treks. Speaking to an audience, he said it was time for charities to work together to share resources, access and problem-solve as a collective, asking them to sign up to ten guiding principles and use a “common, universal language”. “In spite of this progress, accessing help is still a confusing marketplace,” he said. “The veterans should always our number one concern, allowing us to put aside our individual brands or publicity, for their sake. “To achieve success, we must align, we must connect and we must get better. We are losing good people, so no more excuses please, let’s work together and be the best at what we do.” Explaining how impressed he and Ms Markle had been to see the work of the North Essex Veterans Mental Health Network, he said: “A veteran’s journey needs to be as seamless as possible. “Currently, services are very transactional, causing a stop-start process where people drop out or get lost. “By focusing on transition, guiding them through the whole system, helping them grow along the way, we will see more consistent care for the individual and more improved outcomes, probably for less money. Spending to save.” The Prince, who said his time in the Army had meant the issue of helping the military is “personal”, also addressed the “misconception” of veterans’ mental health being “boiled down to PTSD”. Referring to a recent King’s study which showed the proportion of veterans diagnosed with PTSD is “very similar” to the general population, 1.6 per cent apart, he said the “image of broken men and women” made it difficult for those experiencing different mental health issues to be helped. “This misconception is having an incredibly negative impact on veterans as they transition, especially when looking for a new job and career,” he said. “And it can be a significant block to support – it may stop someone reaching out for help, it may stop a family recognising the symptoms, and it can stop the system from focusing on the full breadth of issues at hand.” Prince Harry’s words echo concerns from experts in the sector. In 2016, Ed Parker, chief executive of Walking with the Wounded, shared his unease that PTSD had become a “very engaging” label in charity fundraising, warning charities were competing to be “more interesting” because “we are all fishing in the same pot”.