Remembrance Day is an opportunity to recognise the contribution and sacrifice of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women. This is an opportune time to talk about the mental well-being of ex-military personnel. Do the demands of military life impact mental health?

Serving in the Forces demands a very different mindset to civilian life. Military personnel are physically and mentally challenged every day. They are trained to deal with extreme, dangerous and traumatic experiences. They can be deployed to new postings with minimal notice and have to quickly fit in and take on the responsibilities of their role.

As a civilian, you may think that the high stress of a military role is going to be the cause of high levels of poor mental health. Is this the reality?

Mental Health of Military Personnel

Government statistics for the Mental Health of Military Personnel show that 10.5% of the UK Armed Forces received GP support for mental health concerns in 2020/21. This is lower than the general UK population. Mental Health UK research supports this data, stating that only 0.1% of servicemen and women were discharged due to mental health issues. Even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is only recorded in 4% of serving personnel.

The research suggests that the training and support provided by the Armed Forces equip recruits with the skills, camaraderie and resources to cope. It may be a tough life, but there is a strong sense of belonging and trust in the team. There is a clear, shared purpose that focuses on the body and mind.

Transition to Civilian Life and the Impact on Mental Health

The biggest challenge to mental wellbeing for those who have served appears to be at the point when they leave the forces. As they move into civilian life, their role is undefined, support networks are lost and the culture is noticeably different. Adjusting to this major life change and finding a new purpose and role is difficult.

A small study undertaken by Healthwatch Leicestershire provides some insight. Although the numbers surveyed are low, 64% of respondents reported poor mental health after leaving service. The survey also reveals that only 32% accessed support, with stigma and embarrassment being two reasons given.

There is minimal data on suicide rates of ex-military personnel, however, this will soon be available. In response to military support organisations, the Government has committed to specifically recording this information. The insight will help organisations understand the scale of the problem and what further measures can be implemented to lower suicide rates.

Fortunately, there are already specialist support services for service veterans to help with mental health concerns during this transition period, they include:

The Royal British Legion

Op COURAGE – a specialist NHS service

Combat Stress

– GP Referrals to the Veterans & Reserves Mental Health Programme (VRMHP)

Recruiting Ex-military Personnel

Ex-military personnel have many transferable skills which are valued in the workplace. They are disciplined, organised and adaptable. They are problem solvers, effective communicators and team players. They can be effective leaders, have expertise in practical skills and pay attention to detail. They offer the strength of character to do what it takes to get the job done.

These and other factors make them attractive prospects for many employers.

For any business employing ex-military personnel, it is important to recognise that the adjustment to civilian life can be challenging. By aiding the transition and discovering the best ways to motivate and engage, the skills and characteristics that are delivered in the field can be effectively deployed in civilian roles.

If the company culture already prioritises employee well-being, then mental health training, resources and support networks will already be in place.

All staff benefit from mental health training and support services. Employee well-being is known to boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and help to retain talent. If this is an area that you are keen to develop in your business, Mindset Mental Health delivers a range of services. Contact info@mindsetmentalhealth.co.uk to discuss your requirements.

In Summary

When in service, military personnel generally demonstrate better mental well-being than the general population. Maintaining good mental health is more likely to be challenged during the adjustment to civilian life. When employers offer fulfilling positions and a company culture where employee well-being is a genuine priority, the transition can be supported. Businesses can then benefit from highly skilled and talented employees.

 

Further Reading on Transition into Civilian Roles:

The Career Transition Partnership

Tips for Transitioning to Civilian Employment

Ex-Military Recruitment