BuildForce June Blog

I’m incredibly proud to be the mental health Lead/Partner for BuildForce. I feel honoured to work with the Veteran community and such a fantastic Team. After 37 years working in mental health, it feels as though supporting Service Leavers and Veterans in their transition to civilian life and work and, encouraging them to reach out for support when needed, may prove to be the culmination of my work as a psychologist.

For me to reach this point in relatively good mental health is a blessing although it hasn’t always been that way: in 1989 I experienced a significant breakdown in my mental health but was so slow in reaching out for support – us men eh! – think we can cope with it all until we can’t. I crashed big time and was eventually diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety.

I was working in a very challenging hostel for the ‘mentally ill’ with people who were some of the first recipients of so called ‘Community Care’ – a great idea but like so many good ideas unless you resource them adequately, they will struggle and sometimes fail to meet their objectives. The hostel clients needed care, kindness, and support – the politicians needed a kick up the arse. Sadly, neither group got completely what they deserved.

Over a twenty month period the work eventually took its toll. It was also a period during which I experienced four bereavements, two of which were suicides. To blame everything on work and others would be disingenuous as I was facing a number of issues in my personal life and some of the choices I was making really weren’t helping – substance use rarely provides real support or solutions.

It was one of the most challenging periods of my life but proved to be an invaluable time of learning too. It taught me that we all have the potential to experience difficulties with our mental health. It also gave me the opportunity to experience what it was like on the other side of the couch as it were but most importantly, I learned the huge importance of reaching out for support and reaching out early. I only began my recovery when I sought help. With the help of a kind GP, a caring Therapist and the love and support of a fantastic partner, family members, friends, and other animals, I got through it. Please learn from my mistake – reach out early. With the right help and support we can often work through what seem like insurmountable problems. For any BuildForce candidates or potential ones reading this, that’s what Angela, Caroline, Alex, Kathleen, Leya, Chloe and particularly me are here for.

Be well and may your guiding lights be strong.

Bernie Graham