My mother is prouder of the fact that I’m a Help for Heroes Ambassador than the fact that I served 34 years in the Royal Air Force.
It’s no surprise that Barrie Griffith’s mother is proud of her son. In the past four years since the 56-year-old took on his Ambassador role, he’s become a passionate advocate for issues affecting the Armed Forces Community. This includes working with the then Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger, to frame Labour’s policies surrounding Veterans’ wellbeing. He’s also worked with the Veterans Advisory Pension Committee who champion the Armed Forces Covenant to ensure Veterans’ issues remain at the forefront of policymaking. Alongside this, Barrie provides counsel to those Help for Heroes support, including helping one young father gain visitation rights to his daughter after his ex-partner used his PTSD to block access:
“The opportunity to hopefully make other people’s lives better, either individually or collectively, to make a difference is what motivates me. That’s what gets me up in the morning now.”
Much of Barrie’s determination to ensure military Veterans get the support they need comes from a desire that they don’t have the same struggles he experienced. In 2003, whilst carrying heavy gear on a loaded march, he felt something shift in his back. Barrie suffered a spinal prolapse which compressed his spinal cord. It triggered many symptoms relating to spinal cord injuries and resulted in a loss of all functionality from the waist down:
“I had some fairly significant physical injuries which impacted on my ability to be able to do my job and I was working much harder to compensate for that. The loss of a lot of your bodily functions has a major impact, and my self-esteem really suffered. I went to some very dark places mentally. I now have a fair degree of functionality physically, but the mental health issues never really go away.”
Barrie continued serving, but after 12 years was medically discharged from the British Armed Forces in 2015. Eventually persuaded to apply for the Rolling Recovery Programme at Help for Heroes Tedworth Recovery Centre, Barrie started to see new possibilities:
“When I first went to Tedworth House, I was at my lowest ebb. I’m forever grateful to Help for Heroes for allowing me to strip back the trappings and burdens of expectation and focus on me – that was when my recovery really began.
“Becoming an Ambassador is one of the things I’m most proud of. It’s opened doors and given me opportunities that wouldn’t have been available, it’s also allowed me to concentrate on my passion for issues affecting Servicemen and women. There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to advocate to the level I have without the confidence and support Help for Heroes has given me.
“I regard myself as a Force for Good, not for anything that I do but because of the wonderful Charity I represent. I can channel my resources, attitude and whatever is necessary for the greater good. Without Help for Heroes, my life would be nowhere near as rich as it is today.”