MOD launches veterans’ mental health strategy

The Ministry of Defence has launched an innovative new strategy to improve mental health and wellbeing of Forces personnel and their families, veterans, and defence civilians.

The strategy was launched by Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood at the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ issues. The Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017-2022 is the result of five years of research on veterans’ issues and aims to build a coordinated approach for mental health and wellbeing.

Although rates of mental disorder are slightly lower in the Armed Forces (3.2%) than in the general population (3.5%), there is still a great challenge to improve the mental health of the MOD’s entire workforce. The strategy is designed to prevent, detect, and treat mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as introduce measures to promote the importance of mental health.

The new Strategy will include plans to:

  • Encompass all Defence People – serving Armed Forces members (Regulars and Reserves), military families, veterans, and MOD civil servants;
  • Introduce standardised mental health and wellbeing education and training for all those working in Defence;
  • Invest in research on resilience training to ensure that individuals are as mentally fit as they can be to prevent depression and anxiety and monitoring of groups who are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, such as combat troops and medical personnel in support of them;
  • Improve access to clinical assessment (such as through digital delivery) and prioritisation for treatment;
  • Develop partnerships with key service charities in order to continue anti-stigma campaigning initiatives and share best practice;
  • Improve communication to the workforce about what help is on offer.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said: “A fitter force is a more effective force and keeping our people healthy helps keep this country safe. This new strategy recognises the importance of mental health, alongside physical injuries and will improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of mental health issues which is vital to the wellbeing of our military.

“I’m also delighted to host Ministers from some of our key partner nations, to consult and share best practice on veterans’ issues.”

The conference itself saw Ministers discuss how the transition to civilian life can be improved, including how Governments may be able to use new technology to bring about new opportunities, making the transition smoother; as well as the importance of partnering with the health and charity sector.

Image: © Crown Copyright. Pictured l-r: Chelsea pensioners Ron Chapple and John Riley, Aus Minister for Veterans Dan Tehan, Canadian Veterans Minister Kent Hehr, NZ Minister for Veterans Bernadine Mackenzie, Chelsea Pensioner Leo Tighe, UK Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans Tobias Ellwood, Chelsea Pensioner David Coote and US Secretary for Veterans David Shulkin.

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