Breaking Barriers: Destigmatising Mental Health in the British Armed Forces

Destigmatising Mental Health

Destigmatising Mental Health:

“In the Army, we take mental health and wellbeing seriously.”

How many of you would associate “wellbeing” with the Army? Likely very few, as the public perception may lean towards an image of stoic resilience and an absence of vulnerability, the reality is that the Army prioritises mental fitness and wellbeing for its personnel. Contrary to the misconception that soldiers are expected to suppress their emotions, initiatives like the OPSMART programme and Mental Resilience Training showcase a commitment to open dialogue and mutual support.

Within this Spotlight we will explore how the British Army is destigmatising mental health.

Our director Gina Buckney did a talk for The British Army in a compelling presentation to The British Army last year, our director, Gina Buckney, shared profound insights from a personal journey entrenched in high-pressure work environments. Leveraging the educational prowess gained from Harvard and Berkeley, Gina articulated the importance of cultivating critical power skills necessary for success in demanding work environments.

The discourse also highlighted the crucial role of empathy and emotional intelligence in fostering high-performing teams. Her expertly blended narrative of personal experiences and academic expertise inspired individuals to prioritise their well-being amidst the challenges of demanding professional lives. As the economic landscape evolves, Gina underscores the enduring significance of these skills for sustained professional excellence and personal fulfilment.

Destigmatising Mental Health

OPSMART Programme:

The OPSMART programme is a testament to the British Army’s proactive approach to destigmatising mental health and promoting wellbeing. This initiative focuses on elevating individual and team performance through heightened awareness of mental health. By encouraging soldiers to recognise and support their own mental wellbeing, as well as that of their comrades, the OPSMART programme contributes to building a resilient and supportive community within the military.

One of the most compelling reasons for destigmatising mental health in the is the alarming link between poor mental health and suicide. Statistics reveal that mental health issues are the leading cause of suicide, both within the military and the general population. In acknowledging this stark reality, the British Army recognises the imperative to provide robust mental health support systems to prevent the tragic consequences of untreated mental health conditions among its personnel.

Mental Resilience Training:

Understanding that mental resilience is a skill that can be honed, the British Army integrates specialised mental resilience training into the career development of every Army person. Commencing during basic training and continuing throughout their service, this program equips soldiers with the tools to bounce back from challenging situations. By acknowledging the importance of mental resilience, the Army seeks to enhance the psychological strength of its personnel.

Regiments and units within the British Army are equipped with specific welfare support teams to address the diverse needs of soldiers. The Defence Medical Services network further enhances the support structure, providing medical centres staffed by specialised mental health professionals, including doctors and nurses. For individuals with more severe mental health problems, Community Mental Health Teams are available to offer specialised care.

Common Stressors and Unique Challenges:

The British Army acknowledges that, despite the unique demands of military life, soldiers face stressors similar to those encountered by the civilian population. Relationship difficulties, financial concerns, and work-life balance are among the universal challenges. However, the Army also recognises the distinct pressures associated with deployments, adapting to new environments, and the physical and mental strains of exercises and operations.

To create an environment where seeking help is encouraged, the British Army is actively destigmatising mental health. Recognising that ups and downs in mental health are normal, soldiers are encouraged to acknowledge their challenges and seek assistance when needed. By removing barriers to accessing support, the Army aims to ensure that every soldier feels comfortable reaching out for help without fear of judgment or consequences and helps in destigmatising mental health.

Destigmatising Mental Health in the British Armed Forces – Final Thoughts:

The British Army’s commitment to mental health and wellbeing is evident in its multifaceted approach to stress management and resilience building. By integrating Mental Resilience Training, implementing the OPSMART programme, and establishing comprehensive support systems, the Army prioritises the mental fitness of its personnel. As the British Army continues to reduce stigma and promote a culture of openness, it endeavours to create an environment where every soldier can thrive both professionally and personally, and helping in destigmatising mental health within the army.

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