Headspace App Soldier Smart Phone Graphic Picture Headspace and Crown Copyright
The Headspace app provides a mental health toolkit and personal guide to mindfulness, sleep, focus and movement (Picture: Crown Copyright).
Mental Health

Free access to mindfulness app Headspace for British Army personnel

With chain of command championing Headspace, personnel are being encouraged to look after their wellbeing.

Headspace App Soldier Smart Phone Graphic Picture Headspace and Crown Copyright
The Headspace app provides a mental health toolkit and personal guide to mindfulness, sleep, focus and movement (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The mental health and wellbeing of British Army soldiers and officers is being boosted – thanks to a partnership with meditation and mindfulness experts Headspace. 

Championed by chain of command, Regular and Reserve personnel now have free access to the Headspace app – a mental health toolkit and personal guide to mindfulness, sleep, focus and movement, with 70 million users worldwide.

The aim is for serving personnel to spend their day more mindfully to help free them from anxiety and stress and improve their sleep.

Create your own user feedback survey

Dr Nicola Sides, Senior Health Psychologist and project lead on the Army's partnership with Headspace, believes there is still a stigma and perception within the Army that asking for help with mental health concerns might have an impact on career progression or that it is a sign of weakness.

Speaking with Tim Humphries, broadcaster for BFBS the Forces Station, Dr Sides spoke of how the Headspace app could help service personnel with those concerns, saying: 

"One of the great things about Headspace is that it's outside the chain of command so they don't need to let anyone know that they're using the app. 

"It's a non-clinical app for wellbeing so to use the app is not suggesting there's anything wrong which is really helping to open that conversation about wellbeing."

Headspace Meditation and Mindfulness App Picture Headspace
Headspace meditation app (Picture: Headspace).

What do British Army personnel say about Headspace? 

Warrant Officer Simon Parsons started using the Headspace app in 2015 after a shooting competition defeat left him feeling deflated and questioning his performance. After his brother recommended using the Headspace app, WO1 Parsons began doing the 10-minute mindfulness meditations and very soon started feeling the benefit, saying: 

"It felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders and it was a weight I didn't realise was there." 

The following year, WO1 Parsons made sure he used the app before each shoot to meditate and clear his mind of "all of the limiting beliefs and all the stress and the anxieties that were running through my head". 

This enabled WO1 Parsons to feel completely present and focused for the shoots which resulted in him scoring a personal best and eventually coming 47th within the British Army. His performance had increased by about 20%. 

LISTEN: Tim Humphries speaks to WO1 Simon Parsons about the benefits he has seen while using the app and Dr Nicola Sides about some of the reasons why people do not reach out for help.

He wants to encourage others to take up the offer of the free subscription to Headspace, saying "you can't knock it until you've tried it".

The word mindfulness might be off-putting for some, but as WO1 Parsons says, being mindful can help you experience life to its fullest. He believes that people with low mental health or mental illness could benefit from the Headspace app because of what it has helped him achieve. He said: 

"It can be very useful to help release some of the tension, some of the stress, some of the anxiety, some of the overwhelm because it trains you to be able to observe your thoughts non-judgmentally. 

"When you observe your thoughts non-judgmentally, you lessen the effect of the emotional reaction to the thoughts." 

Mental Health Awareness Depression Grief Credit: Defence Imagery
It is thought people with poor mental health or mental illness could benefit from the Headspace app (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Sapper Vishalji Odedra, of 101 Engineer Regiment, is a firm believer in the benefits of having easy access to the meditation app, saying: 

"It has helped with supporting both myself and everyone around myself, taking time to appreciate each and everyone in turn and every moment. 

"It has even helped me support my family members to stop smoking." 

Major Emma Allen, of Defence Digital, believes giving personnel free access to the Headspace app is a great MOD investment to support serving personnel, saying: 

"I … used the pain tutorials after a significant accident in March 2021. 

"They have helped me to understand my body and focus on recovery. 

"This, coupled with the sleep SOS, has been a critical part of my recovery, especially when I could barely walk." 

Free annual Headspace subscriptions are being made available to all personnel following a successful two-year trial with troops, the results of which have proven to reduce stress and improve sleep. 

The app is available to download on Apple and Android phones plus tablets.

Personnel can sign up here: https://work.headspace.com/britisharmy/member-enroll  

Eligibility must be verified using an @armymail.mod.uk email address.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, visit our audience support page for links to organisations that might be able to help.