Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Monday, 24 January 2011
Royal Irish Sergeant Major adopts listening role
CSM Stuart Potter
Stuart Potter encourages soldiers to talk about their problems

A Shropshire-based soldier has started a new role, providing mental health support for troops in Afghanistan.

Stuart Potter is the Company Sergeant Major with 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, which has its headquarters near Market Drayton.

CSM Potter admitted he was more used to enforcing discipline, rather than listening to troops' concerns.

He said: "In the UK... I shout at soldiers... In Afghanistan, sometimes I shout but mostly I listen."

CSM Potter, who has served in the Army for 18 years, is currently working alongside troops in Helmand province, teaching them to spot signs of mental distress in colleagues.

Seek help

CSM Potter said his role was vital on the front line: "No matter who you are, the realisation that you are in someone's sights, that someone wants to kill you, is traumatic."

The aim of his work is to encourage troops to talk about their problems and seek help at an early stage.

CSM Stuart Potter
CSM Potter is on his second tour of Afghanistan

He admitted it was a far cry from his day job in Shropshire: "In the UK... I shout at soldiers about their uniform, being late for work or having a 'few too many'.

"In Afghanistan... I listen to soldiers telling me how they put themselves in danger for their mates... How they were scared when they thought their number was up."

Trauma Risk Management

Since joining the Army in 1992, Stuart Potter has served in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and now twice in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan he operates a system called Trauma Risk Management (TRiM), which encourages soldiers to discuss their feelings. The team also provides access to specialist psychiatric nurses and psychiatrists.

He said: "For years there has been a stigma attached to feeling shame or upset.

"But now it's 2011 and I encourage my soldiers to discuss their feelings with mates, commanders and with me... It ensured there is no build up of stress or emotions and we all get it out in the open."

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