I cant join the Royal Navy because I have a history of depression.
I have a history of depression because I was accused of rape, something I am innocent of. My fight for my innocence became a two year battle to convince all those around me that I was in fact innocent. This battle I am pleased to say I won but at a cost, my mental health. My fight was both mentally and physically exhausting with little or no resources to aid me other than 'I did not do anything or rape anyone'.
I went to my doctor because at one point during this battle for my innocence, because I felt tired and exhausted and just felt that I cant keep fighting anymore. My doctor prescribed me with anti-depressants because he could not find a councilor suited to my particular problem and waiting lists for counciling were too long.
I had decided to join the Royal Navy and have been made permanently medically unfit because of this history. The Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence have decided that there is something wrong with me (a character defect) and I suffer from an illness which will never go away. This has been stated to me in several different ways from several people. This is something I have come to accept that maybe there is something wrong with me, maybe I shouldnt have reacted in the way I did.
I was handed an article by a friend called 'Stamping Out Stigma' and said I should read it (I have pasted it below).
It raises points that mental health issues including anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress are not character defects and there is nothing wrong with an individual and that mental health problems are short term and you can recover fully.
If had gone through my depressive episode in the military I would have been treated and carried on with my career but because I am a civilian I am being told that depression is such a serious matter I cannot join because there is something wrong with me and I cant cope with stress.
Why the difference?


Man behind the plan: Lt Col Tony Rock is leading the Army campaign to tackle the stigma of mental health

MATTERS of the mind are not an easy topic of conversation for soldiers, admits Lt Col Tony Rock – the man charged with leading the Army’s first ever campaign to tackle the stigma of mental health.
But the officer insists it is a taboo that troops must tackle.
“We suspect that a lot of personnel who need help don’t come forward,” he told Soldier.
“There’s no difference between the level of mental illness in the Army and that of the general population, but soldiers are much more reluctant to discuss it. They see it as a fault in their own make-up.”
Lt Col Rock explained that failing to seek assistance could have difficult consequences.
“Someone might turn to excessive drinking or violence, particularly in a family environment. They may also become less responsive at work,” he said.
The health promotion campaign, entitled Don’t Bottle it Up, runs until September and will include television, radio and magazine publicity.
It is rooted in various research – most notably a mental welfare survey of personnel deployed on Op Herrick 11, in which more than 60 per cent of respondents reported barriers that would stop them seeking help for conditions like post traumatic stress, depression or anxiety.
“People need to start thinking of mental health problems as an illness, not a character defect,” Lt Col Rock added.
“And talking is demonstrating that you have the strength to deal with stress.”
This opinion was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg earlier in the year.
Announcing a new Government strategy to improve the UK’s access to psychological therapies, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “Mental health needs to be addressed with the same urgency as physical health.
“We need to end the stigma attached to mental illness, to set an example by talking about the issue openly and candidly and ensure everyone can access the support and information they need.”
Lt Col Rock explained that the chain of command is now far more aware of the impact of these conditions on personnel.
“Speaking up won’t affect your career in the longer term unless there’s a major problem and for most people it won’t be that; it will be a short-term illness,” he said.
One initiative already tackling stigma is Trauma Risk Management (TRiM), which sees soldiers trained to recognise peers who may need psychological support.
Maj Mark Kingston, officer commanding the TRiM training cell, said a total of 5,122 Forces personnel had been educated in the last three years – mostly from the Army.
“TRiM has its part to play in reducing stigma because it sees people being helped by their friends,” the officer added.
“It’s that ‘coming out’ part that many struggle with when it comes to mental health.
“But the earlier you raise a problem the easier and quicker it can be resolved.”
Andrew Cameron, chief executive of veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress, praised the Army’s campaign.
He said: “Every day we see first-hand the damage done to our people and their families because veterans did not seek help sooner. Our advice is don’t bottle it up – get help.”
You are right ... had you suffered from depression in the forces you would have been treated ... however depending on he severity you may well have also found yourself made permenantly unfit for navel service as well.

The issue is not about what you have/had (mental health condition) but how that condition may affect you in the future when placed in a stressful situation e.g under fire from hostile forces etc. At the end of the day your oppo next to you needs to know that you have his back just as he will have yours but if you cant deal with stress adequately and effectively then he's as good as on his own and when the bullets are flying you need someone to have your back. Ok it depends on how you deal with the stress ... alcohol, violence, crawling in a corner etc etc ... everyone is different. The problem comes is that there is no known guarentee as to how you would react until its too late hence the reluctance to take you on.
I can accept that and agree to a certain extent, you only know your own limitations when the proverbial hits the fan.
You raise the point of how the condition will affect me in the future, a good question assuming once you have depression you always will have depression and it is a medical condition not an illness.
The point the campaign makes is that depression is not a condition or a character defect it is an illness and a temporary one and help is there and your career will not be affected by seeking help. Though I now have to accept according to the Ministry of Defence that I have a condition that leaves me unfit to serve and I have a character defect that I cant cope with stress.
I do not have a condition I had an illness, I had this illness because I refused to accept the label of being a rapist (mainly because I was innocent and im not a rapist)
I sought help something the MInistry of Defence is now asking its personnel to do, as the article states that talking and asking for help shows you have the strength to deal with stress.


War Hero
Don't beat yourself up over it as that just won't help, you have to move on taking up the next challenge and adventure but more importantly focusing on the here and now not what might have been if some small aspect of your life had only been different or you had approached something from a different angle. There are hundreds of medical reasons why people are denied entry every day yours is just a label (one painted with an unfortunately broad brush that is not well understood throughout society and as you've discovered particularly poorly in the military), it is however something that you can move on from though and it could be much worse, as you rightly say this is only a temporary illness.

I'm not a a councelor or a recruiter but I've lived a bit, moaning about something you cannot change seems to me to be focusing your energy in the wrong place, have a read of this, think about it and move on, good luck.
Funnily enough I dont see me having suffered depression as a problem, you move on and learn from your experiences never let your past dictate your future.
What I do believe is the Ministry of Defence have finally hammered home the final nail in the coffin the girl who accused me of rape began to build and couldnt finish the job. In my view the Ministry of Defence have punished me despite being innocent of rape by denying me a career based on an accusation, based on a lie.
Before I was accused I had passed my medical and was all set to join only having to pick a new job as I had failed the selection course for aircraft controller, which was disappointing but its not the only job in the Navy. I had decided to discontinue my application while I fought against this accusation because I didnt want to just run away from my problems.
To Soleil
Now or during my time of being accused of rape?
Now I dont need help from a GP or councillor because there is nothing wrong with me. I just believe this decision was made in poor taste and is inaccurate.
At the time, I found the more I fought the harder it got. The more I protested my innocence the more guilty people thought I was.
I got to a level that I just havent got anything left to physically fight with and facing the idea of whether I like it or not people are always going to think im a rapist. I went to my doctor saying I dont know what to do anymore, I dont know how to fight it. Thats what made me ill my mind going into overdrive on how to fight it and not coming up with any solutions because there arent any.
Last edited:


Jonny, I am sorry your application has been unsuccessful.

You have obviously been through a traumatic event and, despite what you have said, I believe it continues to affect you. I think your use of the word 'stigma' is interesting - I do not think you have been stigmatised any more than someone with asthma or bad eczema - in that you have a medical condition. You are in a large group of people who have been badly affected by circumstances beyond their control - be that the death of a relative, an accident or whatever. Statistically if such an episode lasts longer than a couple of months there is a high chance of longer term problems and we would be failing in our duty of care to you to place you in a situation where you would be under undue pressure.

If you had developed depression whilst in the Forces it is unlikely that you would have been retained - our "medical margin" of people with chronic illnesses is ever shrinking as they are discharged.

I think you have the fortitude to go on to other things and I wish you well in whatever you choose to do.
I served in the mob for 10 years, after leaving I went through other life experiences that ended up with me suffering from clinical depression, I have suffered from this for 20 years, I have no doubt that had I suffered whilst serving in the RN I would have been medically discharged. That being said I very much doubt the condition would have manifest itself had I remained a serviceman. It is only recently that the "stigma" of depression has dwindled. I have gone for job interviews and some employers are happy as long as the condition is managed and under control. As far as stress is concerned, there are numerous situations that can cause stress in an individual. I have served as a lifeboat crewman for 12 years and been in situations I would consider stressful but not in a way that would effect me (now if it involved my ex wife that would be a different matter !!) The RNLI actually made me shore crew for 12 months when they found out I was on medication for the condition, then they re-instated me back to boat crew no reason given, it transpired it was because the "new" RNLI Medical Advisor's opinion was different to his predecessor !

At the end of the day you just have to keep going and at some point it will all turn out right.

Angrydoc's comments very valid
I know you are a Doctor and have far more medical knowledge than I have and I dont wish to get into a medical argument, but the use of the word 'stigma' isnt of my making it was used by an Army Officer who has the job of making the military and mainly the Army understand that mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and in his words that mental illness is not a character defect or a debilitating chronic illness.
I do not have a chronic illness or condition as in it will not go away, if I had I would have constant referrals to my GP to check my condition and would remain on some sort of medication, counselling or at worst in a mental health ward in a hospital.
As for my 'traumatic event' continuing to affect me, nothing could be further from the truth, I fought too hard to let it keep affecting me and like I say it took huge levels of strength both mentally and physically to overcome, succeed and be treated like a human being again. To put my battle into a naval context, I took on an armada of warships with a rubber dinghy and guess what the rubber dinghy came out on top. I overcame something that should never have happened in the first place but life moves on.
I have never been so insulted in my life which includes being accused of rape than when I was told by my medical examiner that I was weak after she sat there and listened to everything ive been through and how I overcame it.
I am not clinically depressed as in I do not have a biological disorder which affects my brain. As my medical records would state clinical depression. All I did was react badly to a situation I had no control over and normal coping mechanisms were null and void as I had no one for support.
Im not weak you have said as much when you say I have the fortitude to go on to other things (if I was clinically depressed this statement would not be true). I reacted badly to a bad situation nothing more nothing less.
Last edited:


Book Reviewer
You've had a tough time, you got through it and have come out the other side a better person maybe. You have now put your case as a reminder to others that life can be unfair. Life is like that. Now you must proceed with the rest of your life. The RN is not the only challenge that you can take up. Good luck.
Its a shame there isnt a sort of Peak Flow diary type thing for mental health, so that people who have suffered a mental illness and got well again can "prove" they are up to the challenge of naval training and service. There are people who had asthma or got a diagnosis of it as youngsters and are now fully fit and have no asthma, and they can prove they are not asthmatic. How can a person who had a mental illness prove they had an illness and its not a condition?

I can't help feeling that some of the people the Navy is turning down due to having had a mental illness (1 in 4 people at some point in their life do), are better candidates than some of the untested, unproven young things with a clean health record and no life experience.
Physical illness is a lot easier to monitor, check and test than mental illness I would have thought.
you are probably right as physical signs are a lot easier to monitor, but just because something is difficult doesnt mean it cant be done.
the american recruitment process is to be clear of medication for 2 years and is then sent to have a psychiatric evaluation to assess any risk. Now 2 years to wait for a dream career is a wait worthwhile and im confident of passing a psychiatric evaluation (its something id pay for myself if necessary). Ive asked time and again on the reasoning of this decision, my last response I received was the Royal Navy doesnt have to adhere to the disability discrimination act, which is fine except I dont have a disability. An other response I got was you are a risk in stressful situations and during conflict someone with a mental condition may spend more time on a casualty list than in active duty, which is fine except I dont have a mental condition. You end up going round in circles.


You may not have a condition, but you are at a higher risk of one than someone who hasn't had your background. A good analogy would be fractures involving a joint, requiring an operation. Once the initial physio is done the joint is effectively normal but we will still not pass that person medically as the chances of them developing early arthritis in that joint are high and we don't want to make that condition worse.

The Americans have many policies on personnel issues - some may be perceived as better than ours but a lot of them are definitely worse.

I still don't see what has happened as stigma (as I said previously - it is no more stigma than having a joint operated on or a background of asthma). Stigma suggests we are not recruiting you because we don't understand or don't like mental illness. That is not the case.

The Disability Discrimination Act doesn't just refer to disability - it means an organisation cannot base its recruitment decisions on medical issues. The Armed Forces are exempt from this, for pretty obvious reasons.
You may not have a condition, but you are at a higher risk of one than someone who hasn't had your background.

Stigma suggests we are not recruiting you because we don't understand or don't like mental illness. That is not the case.
Okay i snipped out a lot there, but two points related to those bits I quoted above. 1) A person is at more risk of developing mental illness if they grew up in a single parent family, or they are poor but the Navy don't ask about that on the medical form or make a call on an applicants suitability based on other risk factors like those examples. Also things change, there was a time the Navy had "good operational reasons" why they didn't accept women, or gay/lesbian people. I am keen to see a more evidence based set of criteria for determining a persons fitness rather than a set of blanket illnesses some of which are considered 100% curable and others that are "well the symptoms might be gone but we think you are a flake so you don't get in". Especially as in the case of some physical injuries, you might well heal up stronger. Mental illness can allow a person to develop coping strategies that are useful in a challenging job, and to gain insight into how their own mind and motivation works.

2. well you don't like mental illness, you don't like diabetes or multiple sclerosis or TB either! It can seem that the Navy is quite prone to judging mental illness as something that is a character flaw, that it means a person is not reliable if they have had a mental illness, and outside the military that is called stigma. No employer wants to employ someone they think is going to be off sick more than at work. Deciding that a history of mental illness means that someone is a liability and therefore undesirable for employment is clearly discriminatory. There are many employers who would like to be able to weed out everyone with a history of any kind of recurring health problem whether or not is has recurred in that individual, they unlike the Armed Forces don't get to do that. IMHO an individual should not be denied the opportunity to work because they might get ill. If a person is fit and healthy enough to do the job then they should be given the same consideration as any other applicant. Has anybody even studied a link between depression and "freaking out if the bullets are flying" as people on this forum are wont to assume a survivor of depression would?


War Hero
The problem is multi-faceted unfortunately & the glue on a medical label long lasting.

Whilst many of us will have suffered some form of psychological illness, it's all to do with minimising risk to the individual and those that may rely upon them. If a repeat incident/episode were to happen whilst serving, with very severe consequences, the medical profession would once again be hung out to dry at a board of enquiry for failing in their duty of care to the individual or indeed those directly affected.

Within the last 13 months there have been two very high profile service fatalities and additional injuries directly attributed to what is very loosely and agriculturally termed 'depression'. Tragic though they each were, there is a very hollow void left with bereaved families rightly questioning "How on earth was this allowed to happen?"

My sympathy is afforded as much to those deemed unfit for service as those who have to make that decision, but ultimately my loyalty is to the service and the well-being of those serving.
Totally Agree Ninja ...

I'm not sure of the statistics ... which I tend to steer clear of as statistics can be made to read whatever the statitician wants ... however the incidence of depression is quite high in the population. Something like 1:5 are likely to suffer from depression at some point in their life - but don't quote me as the ration may be different. That doesn't qualify if the depression was deemed severe enough to require some sort of medical intervention be that by medication or some sort of councelling.

It is also true that mental condidtions / illnesses used to have a stigma attached to them mainly as people did not understand however in latter years I think the work of MIND and other organisations have gone a long way to dispelling the stigma.

In normal civilian life I will agree that a history of depression may or may not have a direct bearing on how an individual copes with stressful situations and I think the focus is on the situation not the fact that the individual suffered from depression. Some situations are inherently more "stressful" than others and it also depends on the individuals support mechanism i.e. talking it out with friends toextremes of alcohol/ violence. It affects everyone differently and in varying degrees.

In the military however there are a whole different set of stressors on top of the normal day to day stresses that everyone can have which compound the issue which I think can be underestimated ... yes we can be accused of a crime/divirced/getting married etc etc however put the fact that you could be in a theatre of war/being shot at etc on top and its a whole new ball game. You get to hear about the runs ashore/dits from the old and bold amongst us howeveer I can tell you from experience that its not all a bed of roses and in a war time situation nothing but nothing will prepare you for what you may be asked to do. I agree with Ninja that there have been some high profile cases in past months which were attributed to depression ... would the outcome have been different is the individual had not been armed with a loaded weapon? ... possibly. As AngryDoc says ... there is a "risk" that an individual who has had depression may react in a negative way quicker than the next person. Its an unknown, however there is the duty of care that a) the individual has to be protected and b) the people who depend on him /her need also to be protected. Its basically a risk assessment.
I currently do voluntary work for MIND (for my local MIND association not for national MIND, its kind of a franchise hehe). During my work, part of which is the production of a quarterly newsletter, I have done much reading around attitudes to mental health, employment law, and special cases such as how MPs with mental illness are treated as though they are permanently "broken", where those with cancer are not. Its enshrined in law, and for the 2010's quite shocking. Winston Churchill got this country through a world war with active depression! But by modern standards he would lose his job and not be allowed to vote on bills.

Anyhow I am interested in finding ways for everyone to get the duty of care balanced so that everyone's safety at work and wellbeing is best protected. I can't help but see the danger of associating mental illness and violent behaviour, which is where a lot of stigma comes from. In many cases when people expect a link between two things they tend to report when that link exists because it stands out to them as something they expect. In cases where the link is not present it goes unreported. This is what is responsible for the unscientific belief that the full moon sends people loopy. Many law enforcement personnel and mental health workers report increased incidence of agitation in those who are mentally distressed when there is a full moon. But in fact there is no increase in cases of people needing hospitalisation for mental disturbance during full moons, just an increase in people noticing "hey it was a full moon when we pulled that crazy guy out of the river". When it is not a full moon nobody cares to comment on it or even notice. I would not be surprised if there were cases where service people took tragic violent actions with no prior history of mental illness. When such things happen, lacking a convenient hook to hang the events on people loose track of it easier. We always want a reason for such sad events, we want to understand why someone could do something like that. If there isnt a "why", its harder for those left behind. But sometimes looking for a convenient reason for extreme actions can lead to more complex underlying reasons being left in the dark in favour of something easier to grasp.
Unfortunately I no longer have an ATHENS account and can't look up articles in journals. I was not being flippant when I wondered if research exists on the links between depression and "freaking out" under fire. I really would like to know, as I don't believe the country is best served by basing such an important decision as to who to take into the military on knee jerk reactions to recent tragic events or anecdotal accounts, but rather properly conducted research designed to avoid common pitfalls such as shown in my "lunacy" example above.

We need a balance between putting 25% of the population in the Victorian Insane Asylum, and giving people with fragile mental resilience responsibility for a boat full of nukes. Think of it like a slider.
You may not have a condition, but you are at a higher risk of one than someone who hasn't had your background. A good analogy would be fractures involving a joint, requiring an operation. Once the initial physio is done the joint is effectively normal but we will still not pass that person medically as the chances of them developing early arthritis in that joint are high and we don't want to make that condition worse.

The Americans have many policies on personnel issues - some may be perceived as better than ours but a lot of them are definitely worse.

I still don't see what has happened as stigma (as I said previously - it is no more stigma than having a joint operated on or a background of asthma). Stigma suggests we are not recruiting you because we don't understand or don't like mental illness. That is not the case.

The Disability Discrimination Act doesn't just refer to disability - it means an organisation cannot base its recruitment decisions on medical issues. The Armed Forces are exempt from this, for pretty obvious reasons.
If you read what Lt. Col Rock says in his article he says,
'People need to start thinking of mental health problems as an illness, not a character defect'
'Speaking up wont affect your career in the longer term unless theres a major problem and for most people it wont be that; it will be a short term illness'
Now surely under your understanding that these servicemen and women who seek help should automatically be given a medical discharge because they now fit under the 'higher risk of than someone who hasnt had their background'. Id say that would contravene what Lt Col Rock says when he states 'Speaking up wont affect your career in the longer term' because being discharged would adversely affect your career. These quotes from Lt Col Rock are from an MOD sponsored campaign to tackle the stigma of mental illness in the military.
My statement stands that im not allowed to join because in the MOD's eyes im a flight risk but whilst in the military its just an illness.
I ask the MOD to make up its mind.

Similar threads

New Posts