Making more of mental health
– by Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional needs Specialist
Gloomy, bright, changeable, temperamental… the weather can be all things and varies day-to-day. It’s something we accept, especially those of us living in the UK! We chat happily about the weather and easily compare the changes we see happening. Many of us even learn to spot the signs of what’s to come and can prepare ourselves so we’re not caught out.
Why then, is it sometimes so hard for us to spot the signs of the various types of mental health we can all experience? Gloomy, bright, changeable, temperamental – we all have mental health and it’s always subject to change – that’s part of being human.
Mental health matters
Imagine how much harder to manage your mental health it is if you’re regularly moving home, saying goodbye to friends, your parent(s) are often coming and going and possibly dealing with their own mental health issues too.
That’s what many of our 73,000 Service children are dealing with.
Findings from the Mental Health of Children and Young People in England survey (2017) estimate that, more generally, one in eight 5-19-year-olds have at least one mental health disorder, and this increases with age.
Our own evidence shows an increase in the number of health and additional needs enquiries we are receiving, and those relating to wellbeing are on-the-up. This is a growing issue!
So, what needs to be done to improve things? How can we help Service children deal with the many challenges Army life throws at them?
“We all have mental health, and the unique challenges of Army family life – separation, mobility, isolation – can negatively affect our mental health, and that of our Service children.”
Let’s make things better
We’re talking about prioritising the mental health and emotional wellbeing of our Service children.
- Better research – so we know what we’re dealing with.
- Better data collection – so we know more clearly who we’re talking about.
- Better transfer of treatment – and ensuring similar treatment is available wherever you’re posted.
- Better stability for families undergoing treatment – holding onto that quarter for a bit longer.
- Better consideration of the impact of separation – whether deployment, training or posting.
- Better access to specific support –both the UK and overseas.
- Better support for children who may be carers of parents with mental health illness.
How is your mental health?
I’ll start where I began: we all have mental health, and the unique challenges of Army family life – separation, mobility, isolation – can negatively affect our mental health, and that of our Service children.
So, let’s check-in, take a step back and assess where we’re at. Let’s chat about the changes we’re feeling, spot the signs that things aren’t going so well.
In the meantime, AFF will keep pushing for proper support to be available when we need it. We want the effects of mental health issues on our Service children to be properly understood and given the priority they deserve. We’ve written a paper to MOD and relevant agencies and contacts to make this point and we’ll be keeping families updated with any changes that come as a result.