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Thursday, 24 September 2020


Four Royal Marines take on the Atlantic Ocean to change the narrative around mental health

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FOUR British Royal Marines Commandos are preparing to take on the Atlantic Ocean in ‘The World’s Toughest Row’ to change the narrative around mental health for those coming out of the armed forces.

Known as Team Commando Spirit, Simon ‘Jan’ Hicklin, Gareth ‘Gaz’ Evans, Calum ‘Cal’ Macrae and Tristan ‘Larky’ Lark are rowing 3000 miles, unaided, in the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2020 in early December (12th). It’s a challenge that is both physically and mentally demanding. But they are determined to raise much-needed funds for The Royal Marines Charity and Rock2Recovery to aid the rehabilitation of their comrades as they transition from military to civilian life. In keeping with the Royal Marines mentality – Team Commando Spirit has one aim, to win the race.

Simon, Gareth, Calum and Tristan all served together, clocking up 63 years and 13 tours of duty between them. They were deployed to the most challenging conflicts and environments in the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Sierra Leone. The team witnessed and were involved in, arduous and traumatic events. The team accepted this as part of the job and something they’d signed up to.

However, the long-lasting effects of these events manifest themselves in different ways for different people. Tragically, over the last couple of years, as well as battling with their own mental health issues, Team Commando Spirit has lost good friends to suicide.

Tristan ‘Larky’ Lark commented:

“I have first-hand experience of the effects of mental health problems. This challenge is part of my own rehabilitation and a way of giving back – supporting other servicemen and women on their road to recovery.”

Gareth ‘Gaz’ Evans added:

“We’re the first four-man team of Royal Marines to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and we’re determined to win. As a team, we have a mission to highlight mental health issues for ex-service personnel. ‘It’s OK not to feel OK’ – that’s the clear message we want to send.”

Mental health can be a major issue with ex-servicemen and women leaving the service. The transition from military to civilian life, and then trying to establish a new focus and purpose, all whilst dealing with mental health-related problems and post-traumatic stress, can seem daunting. The vast majority do find a way to process these manifestations and lead a relatively normal life. But, for some, the chemical and emotional imbalance is overwhelming, all-encompassing and crushing. This is when professional guidance, help and support is vital.

Team Commando Spirit wants to raise awareness of the mental health issues amongst their comrades and reach out to those who are suffering in the hope they will get the help they need and not suffer in silence. They want their comrades to know, ‘it’s ok not to feel ok’. Everyone has the right to good mental health and a positive, successful and happy life outside of the armed forces. Everyone deserves to feel safe at home.

The team needs to raise £100k to cover the cost of taking on the challenge and to ensure they are in a position to raise as much money (and awareness) as possible for the two charities that help change and save lives. But thanks to Covid-19 there’s a chance the team may not even make it out of the UK. Perhaps unsurprisingly, charity fundraising has been hit hard by the pandemic – a recent study from Pro Bono Economics states 1 in 10 charities face bankruptcy as demand for services increases, but income falls.

Skipper, Simon ‘Jan’ Hicklin said:

“Our Royal Marines, and Team Commando Spirit, values will be uppermost in my mind throughout the challenge. With courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness, I’m more than confident that we’ll make it happen. It’s all about comradeship. We can do this!”

Being Royal Marines, Team Commando Spirit is determined that Covid-19 will not stop them rowing that 3000 miles across the Atlantic to raise funds for two invaluable sources for heroes in need of support. They’ve done their duty, but they are not stopping there!

Calum ‘Cal’ Macrae added:

“We have a saying in the Royal Marines: ‘No cuff too tough.’ We’re always up for taking on the biggest challenges. We improvise, adapt and overcome – and approach it all with a sense of humour.”

To donate please visit: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TeamCommandoSpirit or for sponsorship opportunities visit: https://teamcommandospirit.com

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