Change of Career Is All in the Mind for Darren; with a Rising Number of Soldiers Suffering from Mental Health Problems, One Soldier Has Gone from Fighting Behind Enemy Lines to Addressing the Battle Behind Closed Doors. Alison Dayani Reports

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Byline: Alison Dayani

orporal Darren Bambridge is no stranger to the effects of intense, violent conflict.

CDuring his ten years in the Intelligence Corps, he has come under enemy fire, insurgent attacks and served in hostile areas of Basra.

He knows how the simple clunk of air conditioning switching off at his doctor's surgery, made him recoil and fear he was coming under enemy attack during rest days back in the UK.

And it is that background that has nudged him towards embarking on an about-turn in his career, knowing he could be just as vital to his servicemen and women colleagues as a mental health nurse to the forces.

"I have seen how mental health can affect people at all levels while on tour," said 36-year-old Corp Bambridge. "We are put in some abnormal situations and this job is all about what effect that can have on the troops.

"My brother is a green beret Commando so telling him I was transferring to be a nurse was something I really had to work up to."

The father-of-three studied at Birmingham City University's Defence School of Health Care Studies, where he not only graduated but won an award for excellence.

He picked up the Wing Commander P.E.H. Thomas Memorial Trophy for mentoring and supporting fellow students at the University's faculty in Edgbaston, which is the only one in the UK to train RAF, Navy and Army health care students.

The soldier, originally from Potterhanworth, Lincoln, now serves in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and is preparing to be deployed to northern Germany for his first official job at the mental health unit for the Desert Rats, or 7 Armoured Brigade, at Hohne Garrison for the next three years.

It comes at a time when the forces seem very aware of the gravity of mental health on its troops.

There are currently 15 Defence Service mental health units in the UK, while bases around the world and on frontlines also have mental health nurses on duty.

Combat Stress, the UK's leading military charity specialising in veterans' mental health from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to depression and anxiety disorders, claims that since 2005 the number of ex-service men and women seeking their help has risen by 72 per cent.

But Corporal Bambridge describes how only five per cent of soldier issues are due to PTSD with 'adjustment disorder' and routine stress a more common problem.

"It is a tiny percentage who I treat that have traumatic stress, it's a common misconception," said Corp Bambridge, who served at the South East HQ in Basra. …