Conversations around mental health are gaining a louder voice in society, as well as in the Armed Forces.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Tobias Ellwood, Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East, joined three veterans for a live panel discussion.
Veterans James Marshall, Kirk Bowett, Karl Lambert and Kathy Azopardi, were all given the opportunity to question Tobias on the issues some veterans face when it comes to mental health after leaving the UK Armed Forces.
Talking earlier to Tim Humphries of BFBS, the Bournemouth East MP said:
“There used to be a day when physical health was what the Armed Forces were all about. Pleased to say that we have advanced so much from that.
“It’s so important that we understand what is going on in the mind.
“Mental Health Awareness Week is all about recognising that it is just another muscle in the body and you have to look after it.
It can get damaged, but it can be mended. That’s the key message that we are trying to drive home."
A former army officer with the Royal Green Jackets, now a proud reservist with 77th Brigade, Tobias said that while serving he personally did not experience any episodes of ill mental health.
However, he was conscious that he was with soldiers who could have definitely benefited from “a greater awareness - a greater opportunity to share and talk about these things."
He added: “It simply wasn’t discussed whatsoever unless somebody was really in a bad place, in which case they were removed from the front line.
“Essentially people really did zip it up and keep it to themselves and that is not what we want.”
The MP is keen on readdressing the balance of the “mad, bad, sad” narrative often attributed to veterans. He said:
“It’s important to stress that if you join the Armed Forces the absolute majority of people will serve with distinction and go on to then lead very very constructive civilian lives.
“But as in society there is always a small percentage that will require help and they need to know that help is available, that we are there to support them whether it be in the armed forces or indeed later when they become a veteran.”
The veterans and Mr Ellwood are discussing whether there is enough help available and if more needs to be done to make it accessible.
Why not have your say and get involved using the hashtag #AskTobias
If you are currently serving or are a veteran and feel the need to speak to someone about your mental health don't hesitate to contact Combat Stress. or you can contact Military Mental Health Helpline on 0800 323 4444 for advice or support.