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Prince Harry leads panel to raise veterans mental health awareness

As part of his on-going focus on raising awareness of the importance of mental health in the military community, Prince Harry chaired a panel discussion with 3 former members of the UK and US Armed Forces and medical experts yesterday during the Veterans’ Mental Health Conference at King’s Centre for Military Health Research in London.

In 2016 Harry launched mental health campaign Heads Together alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and, as a former Apache Pilot and founder of the Invictus Games, it’s no surprise that Harry has since focused on mental health in the military community. (William has focused on mental health among young men and Kate has focused on the mental health of children and parents.) The Heads Together campaign aims to destigmatise taboos around mental health so that anyone who needs help can feel comfortable asking for it.

The panel yesterday focused on drawing attention to the period of recovery following a veteran’s return from the battlefield. Though physical injuries are evident and require their own rehabilitation Harry’s hope is to raise awareness of the invisible injuries veterans carry in order to make mental health more accessible for any service man or woman who needs it.

Harry told conference attendees that ‘we all have mental health in the same way that we all have physical health. Our campaign, Heads Together, is encouraging people to be more open, without the fear of judgement, prejudice or stigma. It starts with a conversation either with a friend, family member or a colleague.’

Harry was joined on the panel by Caroline Buckle, Philip Eaglesham and Ivan Castro, all of whom are former service personnel. Castro, a US Army major who served in Iraq and was blinded during active duty, will be running as part of Team Heads Together in both the 2017 Boston Marathon and Virgin Money London Marathons next month. Castro was also part of the Walking With the Wounded expedition to the South Pole in 2013 (which Harry participated in) and has competed in the Invictus Games.

Castro began running as a recovery tool and has successfully managed to turn it into a platform for raising military mental health awareness alongside UK veteran Karl Hinett. Together the two men have run over 200 marathons.

Castro said: ‘During my 28 years of service, I was honoured to serve with some incredible soldiers, motivational and inspirational men and women around the world, many from the United Kingdom. There is a special relationship between the U.S. and U.K. troops on and off the battlefield. We have trained together. We have fought together. We have bled together and we have healed together.

‘I am proud to be running alongside Karl in the Boston and London marathons next month in support of Heads Together. Two marathons in a week will hurt but we are doing this for all veterans and serving brothers who carry the weight of mental health issues every day because we believe that we all feel pressure on our mental health at some point in our lives and, when we understand this the better, we can support ourselves and each other.’

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