Mental Health Awareness Depression Grief Credit: Defence Imagery
Mental Health

Advice From A Military Mental Health Nurse

Do not be afraid to seek support

Mental Health Awareness Depression Grief Credit: Defence Imagery

In the build up to World Mental Health Day this weekend, BFBS Radio have been talking to different personnel about mental fitness in the military.

Captain Claire Bolton is a mental health nurse based at the Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) Leeming. Claire joined the military nine years ago as a student mental health nurse.

Having grown up in Bristol in a farming family, Claire knew that was not the path she wanted to take in life. Joining the British Army seemed like the furthest thing from being a farmer in the southwest of England.

After completing three years of training in Birmingham City University, the the mental health nurse's first non-commissioned posting was Aldershot and then Tidworth.

Having spent eight years in the military non-commissioned, Claire commissioned a year ago and is currently working in Catterick as a mental health nurse.

After almost a decade in the military, the soldier is adamant there has been a positive shift in the way that mental health is talked about in the armed forces community.

Claire said the environment surrounding mental health was different when she had first joined. Since then society has become more open to discussing mental fitness. She said:

“I think people speak about it a lot more. They are quite open to it.

"It’s quite a bit topic in the media and I think the military do keep up with that.”

The mental health nurse's role to normalise and destigmatise conversations around mental health are a lot more in demand now than when she first started. She believes the military is finally beginning to treat mental and physical health with the same importance. Speaking with BFBS Radio broadcaster Amy Casey, she said:

“In the military we often speak about physical fitness and physical wellbeing and that’s a massive part.

"I think that mental wellbeing and people’s mental health is becoming on par with that.

"People want to know that everyone is OK and that they are fit enough and well enough to do their job in that way and not just the physical way.

"I think that is really positive.”

To the people that still feel uneasy about seeking help for their mental health while serving in the military, Claire’s advice is:

"If you have raging tonsillitis, you are likely to go to your GP to speak about that and say that you’re not sleeping, you can’t speak properly, and you can’t go to the gym because of the pain that this tonsillitis is causing.

"For me mental health is no different ... it is exactly the same as going to your doctor and saying can you help me, I’m struggling with this. There should not be a difference between that.

"Everyone has been to the GP for something, so I would always try to get people to relate it to each other and how important it is that they go side by side."

Claire wants anyone in the military to remember that everyone suffers with mental health at some point in their life and seeking help would not reflect badly on your career.