Saw this story in the UK MOD news today. Nice to see a military taking a proactive approach to mental health on the front line, rather than waiting to pick up the pieces at home. MP+

Managing mental health issues in Helmand
A Military Operations news article
24 Jan 11

In a stark diversion from his traditional role, a Company Sergeant Major in Helmand is helping his unit to talk through any problems they may have and overcome any mental health issues.

Company Sergeant Major Stuart Potter in discussion with one of his troops regarding his experiences on a recent patrol
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

Company Sergeant Major (CSM) Stuart Potter is currently on the front line in Helmand province with 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, in the southern Nad ‘Ali area.

He operates the TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) system which teaches soldiers to spot signs of mental distress in their colleagues.

The aim is to encourage troops to talk about their problems and seek help at the earliest stage from the team of community psychiatric nurses and consultant psychiatrists who are on hand in Afghanistan to provide any care and treatment needed.

It’s a far cry from CSM Potter’s day job at the battalion’s headquarters in Shropshire where he is more used to being feared by his troops for his hard line on discipline. He explained:

“In the UK I enforce discipline; I shout at soldiers about their uniform, being late for work or having a ‘few too many’.

“In Afghanistan, sometimes I shout, but mostly I listen. I listen to soldiers telling me how they put themselves into danger for their mates, how they extracted a casualty while under fire. How they were scared when they thought their number was up.”

CSM Potter says that listening is vital on the front line:

“On patrol it can go from having a laugh with kids and building up trust with local nationals to lying in an irrigation ditch trying to locate the enemy in a blink of an eye.

“No matter who you are, the realisation that you are in someone’s sights, that someone wants to kill you, is traumatic; that’s where TRiM comes in.

“After every patrol the patrol base commander holds a debrief; they discuss the patrol and identify any lessons learnt, everyone has their say.

“This is the first and, in my view, the most important part of the TRiM process. There is no blame or shame. We all say what we feel.:

Read the whole story here.