'SAS: Who Dares Wins': 5 Times The Show Got Powerfully Emotional About Mental Health

The contestants aren't just put through their physical paces.

If you’re an avid watcher of Channel 4′s ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’, you’ll know the show is far more than just a physical test to see if participants can make it through SAS selection.

Being a successful Special Air Service recruit isn’t only about completing extreme physical endurance tasks, it’s also about mental resilience – and the show is a reminder of how important your mind is, no matter what you’re going through.

The fourth series of the show sees 24 men and women head into the Andes mountains in central Chile, and follows them as they live and work in high altitude, freezing temperatures and even snow storms.

As well as the physical challenges, many of the recruits are forced to confront difficult pasts, from bullying to abuse, depression to grief. Here are five moments that put them – and us – in powerful touch with our emotions.

1. Nathaniel’s withdrawal from the course for his mental health.

Nathaniel, 27, left the course during episode three after struggling with his mental health. The student admitted to special forces staff that he had previously tried to take his own life: “I felt so far down I didn’t think I could get back.” Before leaving, he penned a letter to his fellow recruits that was read out on the show. In it, he wrote: “Although I am physically able to carry on, I have mentally reached my limit.”

Depression affects millions of men around the world and suicide remains the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK. Nathaniel highlighted the importance of talking about how he was feeling. Among the high profile people to have spoken out about depression is rapper Professor Green, who previously said: “It scared me that people were going to see me at my most vulnerable. But that conversation changed everything because from that point everything was out in the open and I was able to then talk to my friends about it.”

2. Mark opening up about his wife who died by suicide.

In episode four, 31-year-old firefighter Mark revealed he’d been on bereavement leave for six months, but, when asked about it, he clammed up. Later, opening up to course leaders, he said that his wife had taken her own life last year. “I’m still lost with it,” he said. “I don’t fully understand.”

Author and journalist Poorna Bell has written about what it’s like when your partner dies by suicide, and the feeling of being “left behind”. “We have to be willing to talk about the reality of it,” she wrote in a HuffPost UK blog. “Living with someone with a mental illness is not always a picnic. Dealing with it in death is no easier. So to those of you suffering, know that we are there. Know that although it’s not easy, although we don’t always get it right, please reach out.”

3. Rick discussing how bullying impacted his life.

At 33, Rick articulated how being bullied at school still impacts his life today. He spoke about how he’d been picked on for years as a “small kid” in the class, with classmates urinating on his clothes, physically assaulting him and ripping up his school work. He ended up being excluded for being “non-academic”, and said it now means he has a fear of letting people down.

Studies have shown that adults who were bullied at school are more likely to suffer with health, money and relationship problems than their peers. Opening up about these issues as soon as you can will no longer make people feel alone. “I would absolutely have benefited from support,” one woman said. “When you’re bullied you feel like the whole world is against you and you’ve done something wrong. But if you have just one person to tell you that they’re there for you, it would make all the difference.”

4. Tracey witnessing domestic abuse as a child.

Former recruit Tracey, who has now left the course, said the reason she had a teardrop tattoo on her face was a marker of “things that hurt me and my heart”. Tracey, 34, witnessed domestic abuse when she was just seven. “I could see my mum with bruises on her and stuff like that, it was hard,” she said on the show.

National charity Women’s Aid says domestic violence can have a devastating impact on children and young people that can last into adulthood – the charity has information on specialist emotional and practical support for children and young people affected by this, no matter their age. Find out more here.

5. Milo speaking about how his brother’s death affected his career path.

Milo, 25, one of the quieter recruits, spoke to the directing staff about how he’d always wanted to join the military – but decided against it after revealing his brother died while fighting in Afghanistan. “I thought it’d be selfish of me,” he said. “I regret it... I wanted to be proud of who I am.” Milo was told he should be proud, despite not joining the marines as he had hoped.

Bereavement affects people in different ways and there’s no right or wrong way to feel. Milo still feels the effects of his brother’s life (and death) and how it impacted his own life – the NHS advise people they can access a bereavement counsellor at any time, even if the person you lost died a long time ago.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.uk
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.