Mental Health Awareness Week: Is the military doing enough?
This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative designed to promote good mental health. It is open to everyone and is intended to provide an opportunity to talk about all aspects of mental health, with a focus on providing help and advice. You can find out more information through the Mental Health Foundation.
The subject of mental health is something that often comes up in the work that we do acting for clients who have been injured during their military service.
We act for clients who have suffered a number of psychiatric conditions including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Adjustment disorder
What is the military doing to promote good mental health?
If you are currently serving in the military then you are able to access mental health support through the Departments of Community Health. You will need to speak to your Medical Officer to get a referral.
There has traditionally been some stigma around talking about mental health in the military, but there have been a number of initiatives launched in recent years to try and combat this and to promote good mental health.
One example is Op Courage, which has been launched by the NHS in collaboration with the Office for Veterans Affairs as part of a wider initiative to expand mental health services for veterans.
The service is intended to provide high intensity treatment including therapy, rehabilitation and inpatient care to veterans suffering from mental health problems. It will focus on those who have reached crisis point and are at risk of self-harm or suicide or suffering other problems such as homelessness and addiction. Those needing urgent help will receive a same day referral.
More information about this service can be found here.
Another initiative is HeadFIT, a mental health support website designed specifically for people working in the military. The website, which was launched last year by the Ministry of Defence in collaboration with Heads Together, provides tools such as breathing exercises, body posture and relaxation techniques that can be integrated into everyday life. It was announced in March that an offline version would be made available to the entire Royal Navy fleet.
These initiatives are part of a wider campaign by the Ministry of Defence to promote the health and wellbeing of service personnel and we welcome the efforts that are being made to remove the stigma around mental health.
Sadly, a large proportion of the personnel who are medically discharged each year will have had their careers ended because of a mental health condition. This suggests that more needs to be done to avoid the situation where such conditions cannot be managed or treated to allow someone to continue serving.
There are no simple solutions and it is important that we all keep the conversation around mental health going all year round.
Some helpful resources
The Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison (TIL) Service is a free NHS mental health service for all ex-serving members of the armed forces and service personnel who are making the transition to civilian life.
PTSD Resolution is a charity that helps veterans, reservists and families who are struggling to reintegrate into a normal work and family life because of trauma suffered during service in the armed forces. Their programme is community-based, with treatment and support provided locally through a nationwide network of 200 therapists.
Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health. They provide specialist treatment and support for veterans, focusing on those with complex mental health issues related to their military service.
Mind provides helpful resources for anyone living, or supporting someone, with a mental health condition.