Soldiering On Awards 2017: Military welfare advocate and veteran Nicky Murdoch

THOSE she has helped have faced combat and have often paid the price with horrific injuries and mental health problems.


By JAMES MURRAY
PUBLISHED in the Sunday Express, Feb 26, 2017

Born into a military family, she was captivated by stories told by her father Gordon, now 90, of his time in the Army in India, Malaya and Singapore during the Second World War.

Inspired, she signed up and served first with the Royal Artillery, spending two years on duty in Northern Ireland.

She rose through the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel and found herself at Aldershot, leading a team managing the care of badly injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Then in September 2007 cancer struck. She nearly died and the brush with mortality drove her close to a mental breakdown.

“After being diagnosed with breast cancer I suffered from depression and I needed a lot of help,” said Nicky, 56.

“Mental health is like credit at the bank. All of us are born with different credit levels and our life experiences either diminish the credit and or they are balanced with the good times.

“But if that credit is constantly worn away you end up bankrupt, and that bankruptcy is depression.”

Nicky returned to duty after treatment on secondment to the charity SkillForce, devising a programme to get injured Service personnel into work.

In 2011, after 31 years in the Army, she left to head the Defence Medical Welfare Service, a charity based in Andover, Hampshire.

Its main role is providing welfare officers in hospitals to deal with the problems of men and women from all three Services.

She reshaped the charity, getting financial support from Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

The changes she brought in saw new welfare teams in Scotland, Manchester and Cheshire to complement other teams across the country and abroad, including Iraq, Cyprus and Germany.

The service also now runs training courses for a diploma in welfare involving a two-day training session on mental health.

“People who achieve the diploma also get a Mental Health First Aid Certificate,” she explained. 

“This means they are able to spot the signs of poor mental health and help those in need quickly.

“Soldiers seem to keep the balance when they are together with their use of black humour but when that bond is broken you start to see the problems.

“I’m very proud of our 30 welfare officers and the work they do, primarily in hospitals, and the dynamic training courses we run.”

To vote for Nicky send a postcard to Soldiering On People’s Choice Awards, Sunday Express, 10 Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6EN and include your name and address.