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Prince Harry speaks at the 2018 Veterans' Mental Health Conference

Posted on 15/03/2018


Prince Harry attended the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s College London today, where he gave a speech covering mental resilience and rehabilitation in the military, challenging public misconceptions about mental health among veterans, and calling for continued collaboration to support veterans as they integrate into communities.

This is the second year running the Prince has attended the annual conference, which brings together academics, charities and policy makers to network and to hear the latest research from speakers of world-class reputation.

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Prince Harry with (l-r) Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor Nicola Fear & Professor Sir Simon Wessely (image: Dan Dyball and Dan Leightley)

In his speech, Prince Harry said:

‘We've made great strides in physical rehabilitation. This is not yet the same for mental health. This is why an event like today – and the work you are all doing – is so important.

‘Building resilience among new recruits and serving personnel is absolutely key to the combat effectiveness of our troops. Mental fitness is integral to who we are, and arguably the most important part of us as a person; whether one is dealing with stress at home, operational fatigue or difficult experiences from the past.’

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Prince Harry speaking at VMHC 2018 (image: Dan Dyball and Dan Leightley)

Commenting on some of the public misconceptions about mental health among military veterans, Prince Harry said:

‘Reports show the majority of the public still consider most veterans to be damaged by their service. In reality, just 2.4 per cent of those people leaving the forces in the last three years were medically discharged because of mental health, and just 0.9 per cent because of Post Traumatic Stress. As a recent King’s study shows us, the proportion of veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress is very similar to the general population.

‘This misconception is having an incredibly negative impact on veterans as they transition, especially when looking for a new job and career. So many men and women that have left the forces are making a huge contribution to their community. We must create an environment where all are able to do the same if they so wish. The opportunity must be seized by the people in this room, and I am very proud to be alongside as you do.’

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Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP speaking at VMHC 2018 (image: Dan Dyball and Dan Leightley)

The conference, now in its fourth year, is organised by King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and sponsored by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

The theme of the conference is ‘From Enlistment to Retirement’, and topics covered include traumatic brain injury, resilience interventions for military recruits, the mental health of veterans in Northern Ireland, and the impact of military service in later life.

The opening address was given by the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood, MP and Minister for Defence People and Veterans. Alongside researchers from KCMHR, the conference also featured speakers from Forces in Mind Trust, the University of Southern California, Ulster University, Combat Stress, and the Ministry of Defence.

Speakers from King’s College London included Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Professor Nicola Fear, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Jones, Dr Sharon Stevelink, Dr Howard Burdett, Dr Victoria Williamson, Dr Karla Greenberg and Professor Neil Greenberg.

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King's Professor Nicola Fear speaking at VMHC 2018 (image: Dan Dyball and Dan Leightley)

Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health with King’s College London, said: ‘Once again our annual conference has been a huge success. We sold out more than a month before the event and all of the team at KCMHR are delighted to be able to host such a popular and informative meeting.’

‘It was a particular delight to welcome back Prince Harry to the conference again and we were privileged to have the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP also in attendance. We hope that attendees found the presentations and networking useful in their work to improve the lives of service personnel, serving or retired, and their families.’

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: ‘We are delighted that HRH Prince Harry attended and participated at this year’s conference. The theme ‘From Enlistment to Retirement’ reflects the duty we hold to our Service community. The responsibility to ensure positive mental well-being does not end when someone becomes a veteran.

‘This is the third year we have been sole sponsor of this important annual knowledge sharing and networking event and we are proud to do so. Forces in Mind Trust has a remit to ensure that all ex-Service personnel have a successful and sustainable transition back into civilian life and we hope that the evidence we generate, and completed by many of the attendees here today, will enable policy makers and service providers to be better informed in the decisions they make with regards to the Armed Forces.’

Note to editors

For further media information, please contact: Robin Bisson, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London,  robin.bisson@kcl.ac.uk /  +44 20 7848 5377 /  +44 7718 697176.

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