The Stigma of Weakness

The head of the Army’s mental health engagement team has called on the chain of command to better recognise that “vulnerability is not a failure”.

Colonel Tim Boughton said more should be done to tackle the stigma that admitting to difficulties is to show weakness. Arguing that physical fitness is indivisible from mental fitness, the officer urged commanders to continue to drive the change in culture.

“Authentic leadership acknowledges that failure is progress if you learn from it,” he said. “Our darkest moments often lead to periods of greatest strength. “As a commander you have a legal and moral duty of care for your subordinates. Think from the perspective of a soldier or junior officer – it can be a lonely place and they may rely on you for confidential advice within the regiment.”

Describing how he believes organisational change can be achieved, Colonel Boughton emphasised that leaders at all levels should allow others to make mistakes and improve, be aware of the emotional environment in their unit and establish shared values by encouraging honest conversations on mental health.

He added: “Resilience starts with a choice – to give in or move forward and become stronger. Self awareness gives you the tools to influence your situation and control it.”


Soldier. (2020) Strength from Failure. Soldier. November 2020, pp. 10.


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