Veterans Wellbeing Support
Service families and veterans
In the UK, the NHS is responsible for delivering healthcare for the families of those serving and veterans. Mental healthcare is a multi-agency delivery effort and the MOD and UK Department of Health are working with the NHS and service charities, including Combat Stress, to promote awareness of veterans’ and service family issues.
In addition, Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds provides free and confidential support to Veterans, their families and the families of those currently serving who are suffering with anxiety, depression, stress, anger or alcohol. The service is easily accessible, with support delivered by phone, Skype or face to face.
Veterans can also access services ran by the Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme (VRMHP) as above.
The MOD provide healthcare services to families who are registered with Defence Medical Services, including those who accompany their serving family member when posted to our major bases overseas.
Discharged servicemen and women are able to access Defence Mental Health Services up to 6 months after leaving the armed forces. It is important that once an individual knows their location after discharge that they register with a local GP as soon as possible, this will enable better continuation of care and alert services of their needs. More information on the service available veterans and an easy to use service locator tool can be found on NHS Choices.
Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds provides free and confidential support to Veterans, their families who are suffering with anxiety, depression, stress, anger or alcohol.
Submariners and veterans are encouraged to look after their own mental fitness and positive mindset whenever possible. Sleep hygiene, food hygiene, regular exercise or any activity away from work that you enjoy can help improve self-esteem and create a positive mindset, therefore maintaining or enhancing your mental fitness.
Keep track of how you are feeling and get recommendations for things you can do to help yourself cope, feel better and stay safe in a crisis.
There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with
- better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
- happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
- managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times
- better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
- reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
- connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people and make new friends.
But physical activity isn’t always helpful for everyone’s mental health. You may find that it is helpful at some times and not others, or just that it doesn’t work for you. For some people, physical activity can start to have a negative impact on their mental health, for example, if you have an eating problem or tend to overtrain.
It can sometimes be really difficult to talk about your feelings with friends or family. It’s common to feel worried about upsetting people you care about, and feel nervous about what people will think, or how it might affect your relationships.
You may feel more comfortable opening up to friends, family, veterans, other than professionals, or you may find it easier to approach a professional (such as your doctor) first. There’s no right or wrong way round. But the people closest to us can often be a valuable source of support.
Whenever you feel ready, these tips might help you start the conversation:
- Find a method of communication that feels right for you. This might be a face-to-face conversation, or you might find it easier to talk on the phone or write down how you feel in a letter.
- Find a suitable time and place. There may not be a ‘good’ time, but it can help if you’re somewhere quiet and comfortable and are unlikely to be disturbed for a while.
- Practice what you want to say. You could do this in your head or make some notes. Phrases such as “I’ve not been feeling like myself lately” or “I’m finding it hard to cope at the moment” might provide a starting point.
- Offer them relevant information and examples. If you’ve found a useful description in a book or online or seen someone on television or in a film saying something that feels right to you, you could use this to help explain what you’re experiencing.
- Be honest and open. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing something so personal but explaining how your feelings are affecting your life may help others to understand.
- Suggest things they could do to help. This might just be listening and offering emotional support – or there may be practical help you need.
- Don’t expect too much from one conversation. Understanding mental health problems can take time, and some people may be shocked or react badly at first. It’s important to give them some time to process what you’ve told them. But, if possible, plan to come back to the conversation with them again, to give you more opportunities to explain what you’re going through.
If you are in crisis now go to our Emergency Page
Combat Stress provides a range of community, outpatient, and residential mental health services to veterans with complex mental health problems. We provide services in-person, and via phone and online.
NHS support page for armed forces and veterans, providing information on NHS services and all official COSBEO armed forces wellbeing charities.
ICARUS is a veteran-led mental health treatment charity. We provide therapy, counselling and help for the range of difficulties and problems which often evolve from trauma, PTSD or other commonly related conditions, such as anger-management, excessive alcohol use and drug abuse. We are open to all the uniformed services, whether in the Army, Navy or the Air Force.
Together all is a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing.