Navy team support Philippines troops with mental health

Royal Navy experts in mental health support shared their experiences with Filipino troops who’ve been embroiled in bitter fighting with terrorists.

A specialist training team flew half way around the world to explain how sailors and Royal Marines help each other to cope with the psychological stresses of combat, particularly after the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan where they frequently saw comrades killed or maimed by booby traps and roadside bombs.

The Royal Navy embraces Trauma Risk Management – typically known as TRiM – to help those who’ve been exposed to traumatic incidents and events; it educates someone’s peers to spot the early signs of potentially far more serious psychological issues and offer support.

Thanks to the RN TRiM team’s visit to the Philippines, it’s now being introduced across that country’s armed forces.

The area of peer-delivered mental health support is a completely new concept to the Philippines’ armed forces and will take time to fully embed across the whole force.

WO1 Paul Prentice

Manila asked the UK for help with a growing number of troops traumatised by an ongoing brutal fight against insurgents in the south of the island chain.

The Philippine Army and security forces spent five months wrestling for control of the city of Marawi with Islamic fundamentalists.

The five month battle left the centre of Marawi in ruins – nine out of ten buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, 200,000 inhabitants fled their homes and authorities faced a £1bn bill to restore the city.

The ferocious fighting also left its mark on around 5,000 troops – their psychological health has been sorely affected, while comrades are also suffering from the effects of the continuing struggle against ISIS, Islamic separatists and Communist nationalist rebels.

The Brits spent a fortnight in the Philippines, beginning with explaining the benefits of TRiM and how it works to senior Filipino political and military leaders, including the head of the military’s medical services, Lieutenant General Bautista.

Then the team moved around the island of Mindanao to work with the units of 6th Infantry Division who’ve been involved in recent counter-insurgency operations, including running ‘training the trainer’ courses so Filipino personnel could pass on that new-found knowledge to their comrades.

Instructors WO1 Paul ‘Reg’ Prentice and WO1 Tony Welch RM identified and trained individuals from more than half a dozen Filipino regiments and divisions.

“The area of peer-delivered mental health support is a completely new concept to the Philippines’ armed forces and will take time to fully embed across the whole force,” said WO1 Prentice.

“The high-level engagement and enthusiasm to adopt this programme cannot be underestimated; policies, training and presentations were all translated for ease of delivery.”

On top of the two-week package the TRiM team delivered while in the Philippines, they remain in contact with their new friends in the Pacific, sharing the latest information, education and advice with the aim of returning to the country later in the year to see the progress made.