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Mental Health support for the Armed Forces

Posted by Tracy Seward

Suicide prevention and peer support in the armed forces

UBM have reported today that the Samaritans and the Ministry of Defence have Jointly launched a Mental Health support initiative. The advice covers how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties, ways of offering support and information on where help can be found. It is intended for service personnel.

It gives advice on how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties, suggests ways of offering support and gives information on where help can be found. All military personnel and reserves, some 200,000 people, will have access to either a hard copy or digital version of the booklet.

The guide builds on the range of support already available to service personnel who are struggling with their mental health, including access to specialist mental health medical care, training and education on good mental fitness and the Combat Stress 24-hour Mental Health Helpline.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Mental health issues can affect anyone and I want to ensure no one in our military suffers in silence. It is vital that service personnel know where to turn to in times of crisis, and this guide will raise awareness of the support available.

“By helping our people to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling, we give them the best chance of a full recovery.”

Specifically designed to promote peer support amongst those serving, the guide champions “looking after your mates”, and covers:

  • identifying someone struggling to cope with mental health issues
  • understanding the complexity of suicide
  • knowing when to intervene, support and report
  • where to get further support, including the Samaritans service, whose volunteers are available any time, via phone and email or in person at the charity’s 201 branches, and the recently launched Combat Stress 24/7 Military Mental Health Helpline.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said: “While military mental health continues to be slightly better than the general population, we’re committed to ensuring that those who need help are able to get the support they need.

“This guide, alongside our extra investment in mental health care and the 24-hour Mental Health Helpline, will be invaluable in helping our people to help each other.”

Samaritans and the MOD have announced several joint initiatives to offer training and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families who are struggling with mental health issues.

The Samaritans programme has been funded by £3.5m from LIBOR, and the guide is the latest part of this programme. A separate booklet is set to be launched for veterans, and the wider military community.

The next stage of the project will include the launch of other peer support tools, specially designed training courses for military personnel and confidential web chat service. Training for Samaritans volunteers on how to address mental health in a military environment will also be introduced.

The Ministry of Defence also hopes the booklet will help personnel spot signs that colleagues may be having suicidal thoughts and it provides information on how such a situation should be approached, and where support is available.

The number of military personnel who take their lives continues to be below rates for the general population, with the military rate of suicide being 8 per 100,000, in 2017, compared to 18 per 100,000 in the general population in 2016.

The guide is available here



At Praxis42 we offer Stress Awareness courses for employees and managers – for more information on these courses click here

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