Mental health can often be overlooked, however leaving the forces and the family environment that it entails can have a serious effect on your mental health. Don’t underestimate it. It is important to take care of your mental health in the same way you look after your physical health.
How do I look after my mental health?
Between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 mental health and behavioural disorders were responsible for 25% of Naval service medical discharges, 33% of Army medical discharges and 43% of RAF medical discharges. It is now recognised that service personnel are vulnerable to suffering from mental health conditions, and more is being done to ensure that treatment and support is available.
One of the first steps in looking after your own mental health is accepting that you need help and asking for it. If you have any concerns about the way you are feeling then you should speak to your Medical Officer who will make an assessment, and may refer you to the Department of Community Mental Health for further assessment and treatment.
For many people, it is not until after they leave service, that they experience symptoms such as low mood or anxiety and realise that they need to get medical help. If you have already left the military, then the first person to speak to about any concerns regarding your mental health is your GP, who will be able to tell you what support and services are available to you locally.
Recognising the symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
The symptoms can include:
- Reliving the traumatic events in the form of flashbacks or nightmares;
- Avoidance behaviours such as avoiding people or places that remind you of the trauma;
- Hyperarousal or feeling ‘on edge’ which can lead to irritability, angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating and problems sleeping.
People with PTSD may also suffer with other mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. They may develop destructive behaviours such as self-harming or alcohol misuse. They may also experience physical symptom such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches.
You can find out more about the symptoms of PTSD and recommended treatment on the NHS website
Who can I speak to if I’m struggling with my mental health?
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.