Secretary of Defense Johnny Mercer talks about the trauma of watching his friend die as he hugged his body ‘like a baby’ after being shot on patrol in Afghanistan by the Taliban
- Speaking about the crisis Which crisis? he opened a podcast about war trauma
- He tells how he saw a close friend shot dead and how he retrieved his body
- Mercer also describes the challenges of OCD when he was growing up
Conservative Member of Parliament Johnny Mercer has opened up about the trauma of watching his friend die after he was shot on patrol in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Speaking about the crisis Which crisis? podcast, hosted by Andy Coulson, the former army officer – who has made three military trips through Afghanistan – opened up from an early age about his mental health issues and the trauma he experienced in battle.
In 2010, he was on patrol in enemy territory in Afghanistan when he saw one of his close friends being fatally shot. He describes how he endangered his life to retrieve the body.
He said, “That was the hardest thing – dealing with him. There is a time when someone is dead, but they are still warm and it is absolutely terrible. I rocked him like a baby.
‘How do you do it? You think I want people to take care of me and fight for me. ‘
Conservative Member of Parliament Johnny Mercer has opened up about the trauma of watching his friend die after he was shot on patrol in Afghanistan by the Taliban. He is depicted during his time in the military
Mercer (photo) also says that the mental health problems of people in the military were not taken seriously enough
About the management of the trauma after it happened, he revealed, “I was really, really scared when I first went back on patrol, it’s terrifying to see someone’s lights go out like this. It was a period of acute challenge for me. ‘
Mercer also says that the mental troubles of people in the military were not taken seriously enough.
“I didn’t take it seriously enough until I saw catastrophic disturbances on the battlefield.” He says this prompted him to make changes to the government when he became a politician.
Speaking on the podcast, he also described growing up in a strict religious household and how he suffered from “terrible and debilitating” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
He said, “It was the hardest thing to struggle with when I was growing up. Looking back now, there were the nights without sleep, checking taps and lights.
Johnny Mercer and his wife, Felicity Cornelius-Mercer. The couple have two children together
“It was awful. It is extremely grueling, tiring and unpleasant. It was more difficult than anything I did in the military. ‘
Mercer was treated and took a cognitive behavioral therapy course to deal with it, but he says it still makes him uncomfortable to talk about it now.
Mercer describes his experiences in the military in his 2017 book We Were Warriors
He added that his mental health message is that everyone can get better and recover.
“My message to anyone with mental health problems is that you can get better. There is that nonsense that you are like this for the rest of your life when you say you are having a hard time. My message about mental health is hope. ‘
In the podcast, he also talks about his childhood growing up in a strict baptismal family without TV, said it made him resilient but also increased his vulnerability.
He says, “I found the military’s switch to politics a challenge. I find political life a challenge. The way I deal with it is to maintain a strong mental balance and it is work in progress.
“It’s something you have to have the discipline and will to work on. But if you do, you can handle anything – the most extreme challenges. ‘
He also spoke of the problems he encountered during his ‘chaotic’ time in the military, including a lack of essential equipment.
He says, “It was complete madness. We were equipped, but we had nothing like the equipment they had in the later years. My boss once told me, “Johnny, just get a knife, that’s all we have.”
“I was shocked at its chaotic nature. People were placed in unfair positions and this has had a lifelong impact on them. ‘
Mercer has been a Conservative Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View since the 2015 general election.
He is a former British army officer and author. In 2019, he became Secretary of Defense to the government headed by Boris Johnson.