My first thought about the medical discharge stat was that there are seven people who need to get some form of support and seven people need to recognise the benefit Help for Heroes can give them.
Rob Shenton had always been a runner, but it wasn’t until his father was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 that he decided he wanted to push himself further. Signing up for the Marathon des Sables in 2011, Rob ran a gruelling 155-mile desert race run in extreme heat over 6 days. Two years later, with his thirst for extreme challenges ablaze, Rob set off to Nepal to take part in the Everest Marathon, the highest footrace in the world.
Sadly, upon his return, Rob’s long-term depression flared up. Coupled with his PTSD, the decision was taken that he should be medically retired, and his 21-year military career came to an end in September 2016: “Initially when you get told you’re being medically retired, it’s a big shock. I wasn’t expecting it. I was unfit for military service. It was really upsetting.”
Rob first became involved with Help for Heroes through the Army Recovery Capability – an initiative close to the Charity – which helps Service Personnel transition into civilian life. He spent some time at the Help for Heroes Tedworth House Recovery Centre: “Leaving the military was a turbulent period because I was saying goodbye to everything I’d known for over 20 years.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do. I found peace and solace at Tedworth House. It gave me space to think and introduced me to Hidden Wounds. I’ve used Hidden Wounds extensively since leaving the military – they’ve kept me on the right track.”
Since securing a job in the civilian world, Rob has used his own experiences of mental health and his positive time with Hidden Wounds, to benefit his workplace:
“I’ve been able to join a mental health executive committee at work, I’m part of a buddy network for people suffering from mental health issues which is based on military trauma and risk management training. This has created a network that’s allowed more openness and positivity. I’m also setting up a military Veterans’ support group which is about promoting the Armed Forces covenant and the power and positivity that Veterans can bring into the workplace.”
With the support from Hidden Wounds, Rob was able to turn his attention to arguably his toughest challenge; the North Pole Marathon: “I really thought that it wasn’t going to happen because my focus was on trying to get as well as I could.
“I spoke to Help for Heroes and they were really positive about this challenge. They helped get me to the North Pole. Suffering from a mental illness means I don’t have much confidence in my own ability so one of the key things is to surround myself with positive people and the Help for Heroes team is that positive influence.”
Successfully completing the North Pole Marathon in April 2018, when it comes to the future, Rob is optimistic:
“I hope I’ll carry on being a positive force in the workplace for Veterans and those with mental health issues. It’s important that people know that just because you have a mental illness, it doesn’t mean you should be written off.”