Posted 29 November 2021 in Blog.

Tips from RHEA’s ex-military staff members for Movember

November is now known in many countries as ‘Movember’, the month where men are encouraged to talk about health issues, including discussing their mental wellbeing to help de-stigmatize the subject of mental health. RHEA has several staff members who were previously in the military across many countries. Having experienced high stress situations, they offer their advice on how to handle mental health issues.

We ask RHEA’s ex-military personnel what has helped them – and may help others – take care of their mental health:

  • How did you manage the stressful situations you faced during your time in the armed forces?
  • Today, what is your best mental health resource when you are struggling?
  • When you were in the army, what role did your commanding officers play in supporting you and what role did your peers play?
  • How has the pandemic changed your mental health?

How did you manage stressful situations during your time in the armed forces?

Talk about it – that’s easier said than done for some, but the old proverb ‘A trouble shared is a trouble halved’ is basically true. This is mainly because it offers the chance to see a ‘problem’ through the eyes of another person and the different perspective can be balancing and reassuring. Actually, just hearing yourself vocalize a stress can be cathartic.”

Keeping calm is of the upmost importance while managing stressful and life-endangering situations. Unfortunately, in my case I found the support [from the army] came too late and was too little and insufficient quality-wise. So, to stay strong and healthy, I had open and good conversations with my spouse, who offered me psychological safety.”

Today, what is your best mental health resource when you are struggling?

Friends and family – the ones who listen and do not judge. An interesting dynamic in the military world is that we may not see our best mate from one tour of duty for many years, but that bond does not wither with time and that mate could be the one you need to confide in.”

“The link between physical and mental fitness is scientifically proven. Personally, I still go to the gym several times a week.”

“Physical fitness and diet are important but for me, having a strong spiritual basis as well as a personal philosophy have really helped me in developing my inner peace when faced with stressful situations. Moreover, having somebody that is available to you with a medical background is truly valuable because it can make you feel heard and valued by your community.”

What role did your commanding officers and peers play in supporting you?

“It depended on the commanding officer; the good ones were the authentic leaders who were genuinely empathetic. It was about creating the right conditions so people felt they could rely on their commander to support issues when they arose. Peers are incredibly important and often having the same experience you are – this shared experience can be an excellent ‘de-stressor’, particularly when turned into humour.”

“The role of leadership is of the upmost importance to create psychological safety. Colleagues need to feel supported to express their emotions, doubts and thoughts. However, commanding officers are often not trained as mental coaches, so to stay professional, having the support of external people, in confidence, is extremely important to release stress and channel emotions. Personally, I always encouraged and welcomed my people to talk to me when they were searching for support and tried to guide them in the right direction.”

How has the pandemic changed your mental health?

“I do not think it has much, but perhaps that is because my threshold is quite high. However, I am conscious that some do feel stressed by aspects of the pandemic and/or the responses to it.”

“The pandemic has not really impacted my mental health. I have appreciated the remote working and opportunity to spend more time with family.”

“It has not affected me much, but I understand why it has been so hard for some people and why others have come out of it stronger – it all depends on what your different triggers are and how this has impacted them.”

Find out more

For more information about Movember, including how to give and get mental health support, visit the Movember website: movember.com