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Mental Health in the Armed Forces

This week is mental health awareness week! Mental health is an important issue in the Army, one which effects many people.

Mental Health problems are common in society, especially depression, anxiety and those associated with the misuse of alcohol and other drugs. One person in four experiences some form of problem with their mental health in the course of a year. And throughout the course of anyone’s life, it is highly likely that they will develop a mental health problem themselves or have close contact with someone who does.

Despite informative media campaigns and increased knowledge on the subject there is a social stigma associated with mental health problems. This maybe is particularly true within the Armed Forces community; and may hinder people from seeking help because they are concerned that it will affect their chances for promotion and might lead to them being medically downgraded.

PTSD is the most commons diagnosis by Combat Stress’ patient group, and often appears alongside a wide range of other problems including substance misuse and depression. Furthermore, it seems to take a long time for veterans to seek help for PTSD: on average, it takes 13 years from service discharge before an individual first makes contact with combat Stress. This may be a result of the stigma associated with mental health problems for Service personnel and veterans.

Research has indicated that certain sections of the Armed Forces community, may be at a higher risk that the general population of mental health problems. A study of UK Service personnel returning form deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan found that Reservists were twice as likely to experience mental health problems than colleagues who were not deployed. The same research found alcohol misuse to be a significant problem within the Armed Forces as a whole and that the risk of suicide among early Service Leavers aged 20-24 years and 20 years and below was two to three times higher than the same age groups in the general population.

“The Ministry of Defence recognises mental illness, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a serious and disabling medical condition – but one which can be treated. Assessment and treatment is available for service personnel who might be concerned about their mental health”.

While no system can ever guarantee to detect every individual at risk of mental illness, the following measures are in place to reduce risk and increase awareness at all levels:

  • Personnel receive training and briefings to increase their awareness of mental health issues and stress management. This takes place throughout a career, but particularly prior to and after deployment on operations.
  •  All Medical Officers, Combat Medical Assistants and Nurses are trained to recognise the signs of mental illness, and Officers, Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (JNCO/SNCOs) are routinely trained in methods of suicide prevention and stress management.
  •  “Decompression” is provided. This is a scheduled period following a deployment on operations in which personnel are given time to mentally and physically unwind, with time to talk to colleagues and superiors – with whom they deployed – about their experiences.
  • Families of returning personnel are offered presentations and issued with leaflets to educate them about the possible after-effects of a a deployment on operations.
  • Welfare Officers, Padres and other associated organisations also provide information to families by email, through support groups, Regimental systems and so on.
  • Increasing use is made of Trauma Risk Management (TRiM), a model of peer-group mentoring and support for use in the aftermath of traumatic events.

“The Royal Logistic Corps takes the welfare of their soldiers seriously and supports and encourages personnel to have a better understanding of mental health problems. Mental Health First Aid England run mental health first aid training for the Armed Forces, this helps give the tools to raise awareness, provide initial help and guide personnel towards appropriate professional help”. Jo Ayres ‘ Personnel Recovery and Transition Manager

Useful Links:-

Mental Health First Aid ‘ www.mhfaengland.org
Mind ‘ www.mind.org.uk
Combat Stress ‘ www.combatstress.org.uk
Mental Health Foundation ‘ www.mentalhealth.org.uk

The Royal Logistic Corps

Over the weekend, 154 Scottish Regiment RLC hosted Exercise MUDMASTER, the annual off-road driver training challenge that tests drivers’ skills and precision behind the wheel of different vehicles. The event, which took place in Dunfermline, Stirling and Linlithgow in Scotland, aims to develop the safe driving skills of the Corps’ soldiers with conditions that are designed to test their capabilities to the fullest. More than 100 teams entered, with both regular, reserve and civilian personnel taking part in challenges including navigation, observation, discipline and safety; all essential skills needed for deploying on future operations. #BritishArmyLogistics #WeSustain #WeAreTheRLC ... See MoreSee Less
Over the last two weeks, seven members of the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, Marchwood Regimental Dive Team successfully organised the ‘deep phase’ of Exercise SUBMERGED CRUSADER 21 in the Isle of Skye, Scotland. In total, 20 divers took part in numerous training serials including: live decompression up to depths of 42m, ultrathermic cutting, hydraulic tools, search and recovery and a seabed survey in the murky depths of Loch Alsh, Loch Akin and Loch Na Beiste. The team were ably supported by the dive tender MV Moorhen and a Navy Chamber crew from the Defence Diving School who conducted lessons on safely recovering a diver to a recompression chamber.#BritishArmyLogistics #WeSustain #WeAreTheRLC ... See MoreSee Less
RLC personnel from BATUK have been helping to make donations of food and books to Hope and Homes Recreation Centre, a local orphanage home to 56 children in Kenya. Hope and Homes first became a registered recreation centre in 2011 by Suzanne Wangiru. Suzanne created the centre in order to rehabilitate street children, as well as orphans and young girls that have been rescued form early marriages. Cpl Shannon Stevens who is currently on detachment from 13AASR, commented on her experience visiting this fundamental centre: “When we entered the Centre, we were taken by surprise as there were more children than we had imagined there would be. We helped to distribute food, drawing books and reading books and the children were ecstatic. It was a surreal experience at Hope and Homes, full of differing emotions, but it was definitely a great opportunity for the members of CSS 2nd Line to engage with the community creating a better working relationship with BATUK.”Major R Crane MBE RLC, SO2 CSS BATUK commented: “Witnessing the delight on the kids’ faces when they received the books and clothes that had been donated by friends and families across UK was very humbling. There are so many children in need and every little helps.” #BritishArmyLogistics #WeSustain #WeAreTheRLC ... See MoreSee Less