Prince Harry attended a Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London today where he led a panel discussion with three veterans on the power of conversations and getting the right mental health support.
At the event, organised by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research with Forces in Mind Trust, His Royal Highness also met an inspirational pair of injured UK and US veterans who are running this year’s Boston and London Marathons, six days apart, to raise awareness of military mental health issues.
Prince Harry attended as part of the Heads Together campaign to change the conversation on mental health which he leads with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and which includes Contact, the military community mental health coalition. Contact aims to make it easier for veterans, service personnel and families to find the right help for the full range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Prince Harry opened the conference by leading a panel discussion with three former members of the UK and US Armed Forces: Caroline Buckle, Ivan Castro and Philip Eaglesham. During the group discussion the veterans each spoke about their personal experiences of addressing and managing mental health challenges, and the importance of the Armed Forces community working together to encourage an open attitude about mental health.
The discussion also touched on the misconceptions and myths surrounding military mental health which create the stigma that stops people talking about their mental health and getting the additional support they might need.
Prince Harry said:
‘We all have mental health in the same way that we all have physical health.’
‘Our campaign Heads Together is encouraging people to be more open; without the fear of judgement, prejudice or stigma. It starts with a conversation either with a friend, family member or a colleague.’
Phil Eaglesham said:
‘Basically, I breathed in one day and my life changed forever when I contracted Q fever. I struggled from the start with not being able to see something that was affecting me physically. It got to the point when in August 2014 I tried taking my own life and me and my wife didn’t tell anyone for about six months.
‘I finally told my best friend how I was feeling and that conversation got me the help I needed. From there, my mental health has improved and has meant I’m able to be here with you today. Making that first conversation happen is so important. If I’d opened up 6 months before I did about my mental health I’d be a lot further on in my life than I am now.’
A number of representatives of organisations within the Contact coalition attended and spoke at today’s event, including the Chair of Contact, Col David Richmond (Ret’d), who said
“We know from King’s College London that over 66,000 Veterans will need some kind of help with their mental or physical wellbeing in the years to come. Men and women who’ve served face huge issues coming forward for support and with Prince Harry’s help we can deal with these problems head-on. We won’t rest until everyone who has served their country feels able to access the right support for them and their families. Contact was set up to help charities and the NHS work better together and to encourage Government to recognise Veterans deserve a better deal.”
At the conference, Prince Harry also had the chance to speak to Ivan Castro, a US veteran who was blinded in Iraq, and Karl Hinett, a UK veteran badly burned while also serving in Iraq. Karl and Ivan are running together in the Boston Marathon, for Heads Together, before taking on the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon as part of Team Heads Together, six days later. Heads Together is the London Marathon’s Charity of the Year and is aiming to give all runners and supporters the opportunity to make it the first ever ‘mental health marathon’.
Ivan Castro, Major, US Army (Ret’d) said:
‘During my 28 years of service, I was honored to serve with some incredible soldiers, motivational and inspirational men and women around the world, many from the United Kingdom. There is a special relationship between the US and UK troops on and off the battlefield we have trained together, we have fought together, we have bled together and we have healed together.
‘I am proud to be running alongside Karl, in the Boston and London marathons next month in support of Heads Together. Two marathons in a week will hurt but we are doing this for all veterans and serving brothers who carry the weight of mental health issues every day because we believe that we all feel pressure on our mental health at some point in our lives and, when we understand this the better we can support ourselves and each other.’
Karl Hinett said:
‘I’m very much looking forward to supporting Heads Together by running both the Boston and London marathon, with my good friend from the US Ivan Castro.
‘Despite having run 149 marathons before, the distance never gets shorter, but working hard alongside Ivan, as the UK and US military has done for years, is a great privilege. Together we can change the conversation on mental health.’
Content from the visit:
Images of today’s event are available at:
High res – https://we.tl/VZhsueUxNW
Low resolution – https://we.tl/ImGWxE7k15
A summary film of the panel discussion will be distributed later on today for downloading or embedding
Social Media: Conference hashtag: #VMHC2017 Campaign hashtag #HeadsTogether
Contact is a collaboration of leading military charities, support organisations, the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and top academics working together to make the most effective mental health support easily accessible to Service Personnel, Ex-Service Personnel and their families. The Contact coalition incorporates: Big White Wall; Cobseo; Combat Stress; Help for Heroes; Kings Centre for Military Health Research; Kings College London; Ministry of Defence; NHS Wales; NHS England; The Royal British Legion; Uk Psychological Trauma Society; Walking With the Wounded; Veterans First Point.
About Heads Together
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are spearheading the Heads Together campaign to build on the great work that is already taking place across the country, to ensure that people feel comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and that fear no longer prevents people talking or getting the help they need.
Heads Together brings together a team of Charity Partners that have achieved great progress in tackling stigma, raising awareness, and providing vital help for people with mental health problems. The team covers a wide range of mental health issues that are close to The Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry’s passions. They are:
- Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
- Best Beginnings
- CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably
- Contact (a military mental health coalition)
- The Mix
The privilege of being the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year gives Heads Together a positive platform to raise funds for the support provided by the campaign’s charity partners and to start millions of conversations.
The Heads Together campaign is being generously supported by The Hans & Julia Rausing Trust, ShareGift and the first three Heads Together Founding Partners – Dixons Carphone, Unilever UK and Virgin Money. This support will help amplify the aims of the campaign as well as fund specific projects designed to help us all with mental health.
Louisa Sampson, Louisa.firstname.lastname@example.org, 07746303905