Mental health


Isolation, separation and mobility can all impact on service families’ mental health and emotional wellbeing, so AFF is working in partnership with various organisations to promote awareness of these issues. We are also asking for some specific research to be done around families’ mental health and wellbeing with a particular focus on children’s mental health and the support available.

In February 2019 we wrote a brief on Service children’s mental health that has been circulated to MOD and various external organisations with recommendations.

If you or a member of your family is experiencing mental health or emotional wellbeing issues, or if you are not receiving the support that you feel you need, please contact Karen Ross at

Please check our COVID-19 section for up-to-date information, as the coronavirus outbreak may affect the advice given on this page.


01   Children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing support

There are several initiatives supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, some of these are:

Support for service children and Young People

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02   Defence People Mental Health & Wellbeing (DPMHW) Strategy 2017 -2022

The MOD is using health data research and innovation to support a mental health and wellbeing operating model. This model aims to effectively promote positive mental health and wellbeing, prevent and detect the onset of mental health illness and treat it when diagnosed. The MOD aims to achieve this by working in partnership with health and third sector providers.

The strategy is being delivered by four groups, one being the Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group (MHSG), and this group is accountable for the delivery of four main objectives.

  • Stigma reduction
  • Operational stress
  • Occupational stress
  • Suicide and self-harm.

These objectives are regularly monitored and fed back to the Defence People health and wellbeing board.

This strategy outlines what MOD has done so far, including:

  • establishing the Defence People health and wellbeing board
  • initiating a pilot for the ‘professional exchange programme’ between Departments of Community mental health and local NHS teams
  • providing access to the Big White wall, an online confidential and anonymous resource
  • anti-stigma campaigns, such as ‘Don’t Bottle it up’ and ‘Time to Change’, which have seen an increase in the number of people seeking help
  • provision of resilience training for service personnel.

The future aim is to develop the five-year Defence People mental health and wellbeing implementation plan with four strategic aims.

  • Leadership
  • Access
  • Partnership
  • Communication.

This will be achieved through promotion, prevention, detection and treatment.

Read this report in full here.

Mental health awareness wallet cards

Handy wallet cards promoting mental health awareness and wellbeing have been sent to UK garrisons, units and stations. The wallet cards feature a set of five signs associated with mental health, and is a simple self-check to help identify potential early signs of stress or poor mental health. The Combat Stress 24-hour mental health helpline for serving personnel and their families is provided on the reverse side.

For more information, contact Karen Ross at

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03   Post Natal Depression (PND)

It is estimated that more than 1 in 10 women suffer from a mental health illness during the perinatal period (during pregnancy and one year after birth).

AFF has received a number of enquiries from women suffering from PND who do not feel they are receiving the required support from the chain of command or from NHS services.

Sound familiar? Contact Karen Ross at so that we can investigate this further.

Baby blues or something more serious?

Pregnancy and childbirth is a life changing event for both parents. It is common for many women in the first few days after childbirth to experience the ‘baby blues’. You may feel tearful, irritable, find it difficult to sleep and have a lack of appetite.

However, these symptoms should improve after a few days; if they don’t you may be developing postnatal depression (PND).

Don’t feel frightened or guilty about having PND

If you think that you, or someone you know, may have PND, the following organisations can offer treatment and support.

Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA)

MMHA’s campaign, Everyone’s Business, is asking that women in the UK who are experiencing perinatal mental health illness receive the care they and their families need.

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04   Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds

H4H Hidden Wounds is a free and confidential service designed to help equip you and your loved ones with the tools to manage and overcome the everyday challenges of living with anxiety, depression and stress.

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05   Big White Wall

Big White Wall work with the MOD and the NHS to deliver support services for all serving personnel, reservists, veterans and their families 16+. They are experienced in supporting the Armed Forces, veterans and the wider military community with a range of issues including stress, anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, family & relationships, alcoholism, bereavement and adjusting to civilian life after the Armed Forces.

Big White Wall provides a combination of anonymous services including monitored community support, guided support, courses, self- help programmes and advice. It’s completely anonymous so there is no fear of stigma and their trained wall guides (counsellors) are on hand 24/7. The support of others experiencing similar issues is proven as a highly effective early intervention tool especially amongst a population who find it hard to talk about their mental health.

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06   The Ripple Pond

The Ripple Pond is a network of local, peer-led, self-help support groups for the family members of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, Reservists and veterans.

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07   Army Welfare Service

The AWS Personal Support teams are both trained military and civilian Army Welfare Workers and Casualty Key Workers. Their role is to help, and support married or single service personnel and their families by providing a confidential, non-discriminatory, professional and specialised welfare service.

The AWS team can assist with a range of issues such as problems with relationships, substance abuse and mental health concerns, as well as assisting with problems arising from deployment and disability.

Army Welfare Workers are trained to support, advise and encourage personnel to manage their problems more effectively. The AWS team can assist with a range of issues including relationship problems, substance abuse, mental health concerns, problems arising from deployment and disability.

To contact AWS Intake and Assessment Teams (IAT), call 01904 882053 or 882054 or email

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08   More resources and links to support and treatment

Counselling Directory is a confidential service that can help people find mental health support. To use this website just enter your postcode and find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist nearby, who specialises in the support you require.

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09   Research and Projects

Government response to the consultation on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a green paper and next steps

‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a green paper’ was published by the Government in December 2017. In this paper they detailed their ambitions through proposals to create a network of support for children and young people, and their educational settings.

They have three core proposals.

  • To incentivise and support all schools and colleges to identify and train a Designated Senior Lead for mental health
  • To fund new Mental Health Support Teams, which will be supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff
  • To pilot a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

These three core proposals will be trialled in new trailblazer areas, with the first wave envisaged to be operational by the end of 2019. Their commitment is to roll out this new approach to at least a fifth to a quarter of the country by the end of 2022/23.

Public consultation

The Government ran a 13-week public consultation and received over 2,700 responses. There was support for the overall aim of the proposals, in particular, better joining up between health and education and providing earlier support in or near schools and colleges. Respondents feedback showed:

  • they were pleased to see a greater focus on improving access to NHS services for those who need specialist support
  • there were concerns about ensuring that implementation should be flexible and not create new requirements that would increase teacher workload and pressures on school funding
  • some, including some children and young people, felt that the rollout of plans should be faster and cover more of the country
  • a key theme in the consultation responses was around ensuring that groups with particular barriers to accessing services, or higher prevalence of mental health problems, would be able to benefit from the proposals
  • young people aged 16–25 felt those out of education should still be able to access mental health support, with services designed around their specific needs.

AFF’s feedback

AFF, as well as other service charities and stakeholders, provided evidence to this consultation and this has been acknowledged in the report:

“The Children and young people from the Armed Forces community can also face challenges to their mental health due to issues such as frequent mobility, both within the UK and overseas, operational deployment and family separation. Those who might be affected include children of military personnel and young people dependent on military personnel. The new support teams will be well-placed to identify mental health needs of these children and young people and provide support.” (p.27)

To read this paper in full, click here.

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