For anyone hesitating to attend this coming weekends Veterans For Peace Remembrance events, I would like to share a few words on the importance of activism or getting involved, however minor or important you may feel this is.
For many years I have been concerned at the high suicide rates and the treatment of former servicemen who present themselves as having what the medical profession calls PTSD. Over the years I have been asked to talk to medical students on the traumatic consequences of armed conflict both for soldiers and civilians, wives and families. In addition I have written many letters to most of the mental health related organisations emphasising the point that it is no good just throwing anti-depressants at those who have had insight into the true nature of warfare and its miserable consequences. I kept repeating to anyone prepared to listen that “waking up is not depression, and that anti-depressants are merely designed to put you back to sleep”. I thought my activism regarding this subject had run it’s course and there was nothing more to be said.
Then out of the blue in June this year I received a request from the College of Mental Health Pharmacy asking if I would give the opening presentation at the Annual International Psychiatric Pharmacy Conference. At last after many years I felt my repetitive bleating’s had been heard. So today, in front of the big players in this field I will be addressing this conference of Doctors, Psychiatrists, Pharmacists, Mental Health Practitioners and other associated professions. Hopefully if the message gets home we can avoid another sad loss.
The point I am trying to make is ‘GET ACTIVE.’ However, insignificant or trivial you may think your contribution is. It’s the drip drip that fills the pot, and the results might not appear obvious. So get the message out there; a letter to your local council, a solo protest, an attendance at a local meeting, a solitary vigil or attending a march, whatever it is just do it, and more importantly let other members know, so that you become an example for others to get involved.
It has always impressed me how (for the short time I have been aware of VFP) the likes of Jim Radford got the message out at the Albert hall, Ben Griffin at the Oxford Union and I recently attended an event with other VFP members at Queens University Belfast. Obviously all the events members undertake will not be as high profile as these, but they are all important, all valid, it just takes effort. Therefore, if you are wavering over this weekends attendance, go for it, stand in solidarity if you can with other VFP members and supporters and lets show these war mongering hawks that they are not going to get away with it for much longer. Peace and happiness to everyone and I look forward to making new friends this weekend.
Gus Hales served with the British Army in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, he is now a member of Veterans For Peace and contributed to this article.