Combat Stressed: Mental Ill Health in the Armed Forces

PTSD mental ill health armed forces


Armed forces personnel are highly-trained and disciplined, but they’re still human beings, and the things they experience during service are beyond what most people could imagine. Add to this the fact that many military personnel find the transition to civilian life very difficult because of a lack of service provision or opportunity, and you can see why many of them suffer from mental ill health while they’re actively serving, or in the years afterwards. Mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance abuse affect a significant number of serving personnel and veterans.

The problems experienced by serving personnel

Studies have unsurprisingly found links between serving in the armed forces and mental health problems. Mental health disorders and alcohol misuse are common, and serving personnel are more likely to misuse alcohol than the general population. Those in combat roles are the most likely to suffer from PTSD.

The problems veterans experience

There are around 5 million veterans in the UK, and thousands of personnel leave or retire from the armed forces every year. Only a tiny fraction of those are medically discharged due to mental health problems, but many will develop them in the months and years after they leave. Returning to civilian life is fraught with difficulties, from the loss of support networks, to a lack of employment opportunities, and homelessness. Only half of veterans who have mental health problems seek help, and they’re rarely referred to specialist veterans’ mental health services.

What help is available for veterans?

The Ministry of Defence and NHS have set up veterans’ mental health projects across the UK, and charities like Combat Stress and SSAFA (the Soldiers’, Sailors, and Airmen’s Families Association) do a lot of very valuable work with former servicemen and women and their families.

Would you know how to help?

Do you work with veterans or serving members of the armed forces, or do you have a friend, family member, or partner who served or is serving in the military? Would you know if they were experiencing a mental health problem, and would you know how to support them, and get them to seek help?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for the Armed Forces Community

SSAFA, MHFA England CIC, Combat Stress, and the Royal British Legion have joined forces to deliver a project aimed at helping servicemen and women, veterans, and their families understand mental ill health, know the signs, and know where to go for help. The 2-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for the Armed Forces Community course is part of this, and we’re proud to say this is a course that we offer.

What will I learn?

The MHFA Course for the Armed Forces Community will help you to:

  • Increase your understanding of mental health
  • Increase your understanding of military culture
  • Increase your own resilience
  • Spot the early signs of a mental health problem
  • Feel confident helping someone who is experiencing a problem
  • Provide help on a first aid basis
  • Prevent someone from hurting themselves or others
  • Help stop a mental illness from getting worse
  • Help someone recover faster
  • Guide someone towards the right support
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health problems

Train with us:

To book a place on this course click here

If you have any queries about the course or any of our other training, email us at or call us on 07917062257.



Bridget Woodhead