The importance of mental fitness was a central topic when the British Army held its first Health and Deployability Conference, in anticipation of Mental Health Awareness Week.
The conference at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was opened by Commander Field Army, Lt Gen Patrick Sanders who told us: "When I issued my Health and Deployability directive last year I outlined the concept of the "Soldier Athlete", emphasising that while it is every individual's responsibility to improve and maintain their health, I want commanders at all levels to lead this cultural change, pushing the narrative of health, fitness and professionalism, so that it is present in everything we do. I want us all to understand that to maximise our deployability and operational effectiveness, we must nurture a Field Army of soldiers who train, work and live well.
"This conference emphasises that effective leadership sits behind all aspects of health improvement. I want to establish a culture of holistic physical and mental health; balanced physical development and self-reliance throughout the Field Army."
Also present, amongst the 520 delegates, were representatives from the Royal Foundation, including HRH Prince Harry. The Royal Foundation supports many initiatives, but significant to the Army is its support of the Armed Forces and Mental Health.
Prince Harry described how it was a privilege to lead troops adding: "Maintaining your own physical fitness and that of your team is a matter of professional pride for any commander. I believe the same should be true of psychological fitness."
Speaking about the importance of this work for the future of the Army he said: "For our country and for the future of our Army; for our veterans, our serving men and women, for their families, and for the generations of soldiers we are yet to recruit; the changes you can make from today, can - and will - build a better, stronger, more courageous and inspiring British Armed Forces."
The Health and Deployability Directive recognises that mentally robust soldiers deliver optimal performance, and the Army has made it a priority to promote psychological resilience and de-stigmatise mental illness, in order to improve mental health. It goes on that the Army must not just react to poor mental health, but must support its people throughout the continuum of mental health, acknowledging the psychological pressures of modern life and military service (whether away on operations or not), and promote the maintenance of good mental health.