In a particularly emotionally charged episode of SAS Who Dares Wins last night mental health and male suicide were the main focus.
The Channel 4 programme makes it very clear that to be part of the Special Forces you can’t rely solely on being physically strong, remembering your mental health is just as important.
Halfway through the episode Chief Instructor Ant Middleton says:
“In our world, you must be able to control your emotions, it’s like a switch, you need to be able to flick them on and off.
“Code red aggression, to flick it to compassionate empathy within seconds.
“If you can do it, you become an elite soldier. If you don’t, you become a bully with a weapon.”
As shown in the clip below, before embarking on a particularly gruelling winter warfare challenge recruit Nathaniel asks to speak to Chief Instructor Ant Middleton and says:
“It’s my f***king head, it always holds me back all the time. I’m just f***ing trying.
Ant responds warmly with:
“Listen, you haven’t tried. You’ve done better than trying.”
CREDIT: Channel 4 / CONTAINS SWEARING
Throughout the course, Nathaniel excelled physically but found being chosen by female recruit Louise to fight during the boxing challenge difficult to cope with.
Nathaniel reveals his previous struggles with his own mental health and gathers the courage to talk about the time he tried to commit suicide.
“I was in my uni house and then I just couldn’t be bothered anymore so I tried to like end it and then…”
With concerns about his state of mind, Nathaniel is brought back to base to speak to Chief Medical Advisor Dr Sundeep Chohan. When asked how he’s doing Nathaniel says:
“Physically I’m fine but sometimes I wake up and I feel a bit all over the place.
“Physically like, I can do it all, like I’ve proved that but sometimes I’m waking up and I just feel like s**t.
Sundeep withdraws Nathaniel from the show on medical grounds based on his state of mind at the time.
Nathaniel wrote a letter to his fellow recruits before leaving. When the recruits return to base after being evacuated from the winter storm challenge Police Community Support Officer Laura reads them what he wrote, bringing many of them to tears.
“While I was at uni I tried to hang myself.
“I fell so far down I didn’t think I could get back up, but when you fall on your back, you can’t fall any further.
“I’m physically able to carry on but mentally I’ve reached my limit.
“There is no switch to turn mental health on or off and I’m sorry if you think I’ve let you down, but I have to put my health first."
CREDIT: Channel 4
Nathaniel had already left base when the letter was read to his fellow recruits so he watched the emotional moment for the first time along with the rest of the UK.
There has been an outpouring of support for Nathaniel on social media with many taking to Twitter to praise him for talking openly about his own mental health and his suicide attempt.
Meanwhile, the cameras also focussed on 25-year-old recruit Milo who was highlighted as being one of the least confident recruits.
Ant Middleton points out that if you want to be in the Special Forces you have to be extremely confident if put in a position of authority.
"I’m not just talking confident, I’m talking extreme confidence, bordering on ego.
“It’s important that people want to work for you, people want to die for you."
Away from his fellow recruits, Milo explains his insecurities and why he finds it difficult to give advice to a typical alpha male:
“I can be quite shy in front of people, can be quite reserved, quite anxious about certain situations I’m not quite comfortable in”
Later in the episode, it is revealed that Milo has two brothers who he has always looked up to.
Milo explains that when he left school he wanted to join the Royal Marines. However, as shown in the clip below, when it comes to explaining why he never achieved that dream Milo has to take a minute to compose himself.
“When I was 15 I lost my brother in Afghanistan, he got killed by an IED.
“I thought it would be selfish of me to join the military after seeing my family and what they’ve been through."
CREDIT: Channel 4
Milo's brother Marine Travis Mackin was killed in action in the Kajaki area of Afghanistan's Helmand Province on the morning of January 11 2009.
At the time of Mne Mackin’s death Colonel Haydn White, Commanding Officer 539 Assault Squadron and the Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, said:
“Marine Travis Mackin was a highly professional soldier with an infectious sense of humour and liked by all that knew him.
"Wherever he served, Travis was guaranteed to provide his best and was an accomplished soldier and signaller.
"He always had a real zest for life and those that met him were better for the experience.”
Milo goes on to say that ten years after the death of his brother he feels regret for not signing up, as though nothing he has achieved since has been as worthy as a military career could have been.
“Looking up to my brothers and everything they’ve dealt with in their life and achieved in their life, kind of, outweighs me a little bit.
“I wouldn’t put myself in their shoes of being a man yet.”
Cover Image: Channel 4