Pathfinder International editor, Mal Robinson opened up about his own mental health journey in last October’s issue of the magazine. With World Mental Health Day on October 10, Mal looks back on the 12 months since…

“I came very close to not covering my story, never mind putting myself on the front cover of Pathfinder for October 2019’s issue.

I didn’t want people to think it was all about me, I didn’t want people to judge me, I didn’t want any spotlight on me to be honest. In the end, after consultation with various people, the overriding ethos was “well someone needs to speak about mental health” and you could say it was my job as editor to send this message out…even if I didn’t realise the message would be so hands on and close to home.

Here we are talking about World Mental Health Day once more in what must be the most poignant one of the lot. COVID19 has impacted the globe in terms of illness and disease in a devastating pandemic.

Yet whilst the virus has taken centre stage, the aftereffects and fall out from lockdown and social distancing will be felt perhaps much longer than the disease will be around.

People’s mental wellbeing will no doubt have suffered – it must have done. Whether you suffered from mental health prior to the pandemic or not, anxiety and worry will have crept in at some point, be it from ill relatives through to fear of job losses and a steady income.

Throw into the equation the life of a veteran or ex-military personnel as I prefer to be known.
Everyone going through resettlement and those who have passed through the exit gates on camp into civilian life will feel some kind of isolation in some form. This could be very mild from simply missing mates and remembering the laughs (and the lows) through to the onset of depression triggered by loneliness.

It is perfectly natural for any life changing event to feel this way, never mind the transition from military to civilian. 2020 will not have helped those in resettlement nor the wider military community.

I will admit there have been times the walls have been closing in and whilst I did not miss the commute to work, working from home presents itself with its own challenges. I am still working from home now and apart from shopping and long walks, the house has been my refuge it is safe to say. There lies another potential problem, a potential fear for some of going back into the real world following COVID.

For me, this period, this year, has allowed for a lot of reflection and for someone who has suffered from PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and bouts of depression, this has not always been a good thing!

A constant fear of something happening to me or my family has taken a hold. Even the craziest of thoughts from train crashes, school accidents, you name it, they have flashed through my mind. I know this stems from military training of being on constant alert from a series of ops in my career in what was a short space of time. It seems the forces train you up, but don’t train you to unwind.

I know all of this, as I have been through treatment for PTSD and anxiety. I know these thoughts and emotions are coming, I have refrained from stopping myself trying to stop them – if that makes sense?

I now allow them to come into my head, yet I know why they are there, I know they will go soon, sometimes instantly and get on with my day. I have accepted, mental health is all about management like any injury. If you have a bad back, you know your limitations on lifting heavy items. If you have a stomach ulcer, you know to shy away from spicy food.

If you have mental well being problems, chat to someone, seek advice, or if you have been through the mill already, realise why you are experiencing this, accept it is perfectly natural and look to cope in your own set way.

The topic of mental health is vast and it is personal to the individual – everyone has their own boundaries sub consciously and everyone has their own life experiences and everything is relative to each and their own – do not beat yourself up mentally.
Perhaps the most important thing is to chat and there are plenty of people out there happy to chat back. Hopefully by once again talking about my own thoughts and experiences, it will encourage you all to do the same.”

Read the entire issue of Pathfinder International for October HERE!