Former Army Captain and Invictus Games UK Team Captain, David Wiseman, writes a guest blog on the importance of looking after your mental health this Remembrance Sunday.
November can be a tough time for lots of people, as the nights draw in and the weather makes it difficult to do some of the activities that make us happy.
This year will be particularly tough with the recent announcement about lockdown in England and other restrictive measures across the UK; the impact on finances, lack of access to social settings and gyms and the general background anxiety that seems to be ever present.
The act of Remembrance is extremely important. Like many things, it will feel different this year, but it should remain a collective act of respect for all those who have lost their lives in conflict – combatants and non-combatants, allies and enemies. We remember not to glorify, but to mark the loss and hope for a world where that loss is never repeated.
Most people will stand solemnly on Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday and respectfully remember those who fell during the World Wars. But some with a service background may remember those lost in more recent conflicts, where memories are not so faded and the pain is still felt deeply. This experience can trigger other emotions and perhaps even negative coping strategies.
Acknowledge this can be a tough time, make a plan, know where you can find support if you need it.
When I stand in silence every Remembrance Day, I remember faces known to me. Those I trained with, soldiers from my Regiment and unfortunately, those I was alongside as they passed.
Having been seriously wounded in combat myself, I have had the honour to meet scores of men who bear the physical and psychological scars of war, men whom I am now proud to call friends. During this period, I remember my friends and pause to consider how so many have sacrificed their youth and their health in service.
I know that November can be a difficult period and so I plan for it - taking proactive steps to take care of my mental fitness. I am neither too ashamed to show vulnerability nor too proud to ask for help.
I encourage my fellow veterans to acknowledge the significance of Remembrance and plan for the fact that it will certainly feel different this year; perhaps access to normal support mechanisms might not be so readily available – including meeting your friends for a catch up after the service. Aim off for this now and, just like when you were serving, create a contingency: a list of ‘actions on’ should you need to reach out – for example keep the Shout number in your back pocket and know that if you text CONTACT to 85258, someone will be there for you.
It is good and it is right to remember. You honour those who have fallen by doing so. But acknowledge this can be a tough time, make a plan, know where you can find support if you need it and remember to look after yourself during Remembrance.
*For a greater understanding on how to build your Mental Fitness – check out www.headfit.org.