Despite being somewhat surprised to encounter a homeless man on their way to yesterday’s Assembly, many pupils felt moved to give what they had: a chocolate, an apple, a pear, a loaf of bread and any money they could find in their pockets. The focus of Assembly was a presentation by representatives from this year’s school charity, Restore. When Community Fundraiser Hannah Feldman introduced the charity’s Chief Executive, Martin Realey, in walked the ‘homeless man’. Without the beanie hat, hoodie and brown paper bag, Martin quickly regained the air of an executive. He went on to give a powerful talk on the importance of recognising and addressing mental illness by delivering a candid summary of his life to date. On the surface, he was a popular and successful young man. He did well at school, and university, and went on to join the Army, becoming an officer in the Parachute Regiment. Over the next 15 years, he carried out a dizzying schedule of tours to Iraq, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and later the Falkland Islands.
Promoted at speed through the ranks to Major, Martin loved his job, despite its pressures. With endless deployments and as a husband and father of two, his priorities changed. On voluntary discharge, Martin’s medical notes indicated serious and enduring mental illness. He was frank that whilst PTSD is easily attributable to a veteran with so many operational deployments, he had managed his mental health in secret since his early teens, through both school and university. Martin’s impersonation of a homeless man – and his own story – underlined the importance of being alert to the possibility of mental illness: things are not always as they seem.
Whilst still managing an enduring severe illness, Martin is Chief Executive of Restore; he and his team work hard to help people who have suffered mental illness to recover and find work. The mental health support services available include coaching, activity based recovery groups and training. Since St Edward’s adopted Oxfordshire-based Restore as Charity of the Year last term, a staggering £18,000 has been raised through various means: House events, collections, cake sales, auctions and of course Anna Mostyn’s daring skydive last term. Pictured are Henry Johnson, the Warden, Martin Realey, Harry Mostyn (who nominated Restore as Charity of the Year) and Emma Isola.