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Prince Harry joins Veterans' Mental Health Conference

Posted on 16/03/2017

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Prince Harry meeting (from left-to-right): Neil Greenberg, Nicola Fear, Simon Wessely and Robert Lechler.

Prince Harry attended the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London today (Thursday 16 March), where he led a panel discussion with three veterans on the benefits of having open conversations about mental health and getting the right support.

Organised by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and sponsored by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), the annual event gathered leading experts to discuss international perspectives on mental health in the Armed Forces.

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From left-to-right: Philip Eaglesham, Prince Harry, Ivan Castro and Caroline Buckle.

Speaking at the event, Prince Harry said: ‘The assumption is that 90 per cent of veterans have mental illness from service – this simply isn’t true – research by King’s [College London] puts it at 10 per cent. Phrases like‘ticking time-bomb’ fuel this misconception and are incredibly unhelpful. More people are accessing help now than ever before, which clearly states that we must be doing something right by reducing the stigma. But of course we still have a lot of work to do.

‘PTSD as far as I see it is shorthand for mental illness in the Armed Forces – it’s just too simple. What I mean by that is it’s not always the right diagnosis for everyone. Most who face issues will experience common conditions like depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders… my main fear is that people will not get the appropriate help due to the stigma surrounding the more common conditions.’

His Royal Highness added: ‘We need to improve the conversation. We all have mental health, in the same way that we all have physical health. We worry about our physical fitness probably now more than we ever have before – but our mental fitness is just as important.’

Prince Harry joined the conference 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.

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He opened the event 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. 

This year's KCMHR conference focused on issues ranging from the use of peers to improve treatment-seeking and the mental health of and support for service families, to whether veterans’ mental health care should be part of mainstream services. 

Speakers from the public health, academic and Service charity sectors provided expert insights and the latest research findings, including: Capt US Navy (Rtd) Robert Koffman from the Semper Fi Fund and Warrior Canine Connection, on the therapeutic benefits of animals to improve veterans’ mental health; and Professor (Col) Eric Vermetten of Leiden University, on genetics and other novel therapies in the mental health of service veterans.

Speakers from King’s included Professor Wyn Bowen, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor Nicola Fear, Dr Sharon Stevelink and Professor Neil Greenberg.

Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health at King’s College London, said: ‘We set up this annual conference three years ago in order to provide high quality evidence and informed debate at a reasonable cost for those interested in this important topic. We were delighted to welcome Prince Harry to the conference this year as well as a range of other excellent speakers. Once again the event was completely sold out, which highlights how much interest there is in understanding ‘what the truth is’ in what can sometimes be a rather poorly understood subject.

'We are highly appreciative that the Forces in Mind Trust agreed to sponsor the event again and the whole of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research team remains proud of the work we do to improve the lives of service personnel, serving or retired, and their families.’

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: ‘We are delighted that Prince Harry attended and participated in this year’s Veterans’ Mental Health Conference, and welcome the ‘Heads Together’ campaign’s contribution to tackling the stigma surrounding mental health. Overcoming stigma and preconceived negative ideas about mental health is a vital element we must overcome if we are to succeed in improving veterans’mental well-being. We are once again proud to have been sole sponsor of this important knowledge sharing and networking event.’

Notes to editors

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at Kings College London runs a War & Psychiatry MSc course, which aims to develop skills and knowledge about the way people, both in the Armed Forces and civilians, respond to psychological trauma. Find out more on the Kings College London website:http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught-courses/war-and-psychiatry-msc.aspx

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, Kings College London on jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk or 020 7848 5377.


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