Reservists in Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: Crown Copyright).
Mental Health

One in eight military personnel sought help for mental health issues in 2021, new figures show

The statistics show a return to pre-COVID pandemic levels after a drop in numbers during lockdown.

Reservists in Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: Crown Copyright).

One in eight Armed Forces personnel sought help from military healthcare services for mental health-related reasons last year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Defence. 

The new figures show a return to pre-COVID pandemic levels – there was a drop in the number of personnel seeking help for mental health-related issues during the lockdown in 2020. 

Defence says this could potentially be because the lockdown led to a reduction in military activity, in turn reducing some of the stress often associated with life in the Armed Forces life, like being away from loved ones and the risk of workplace injury or death.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) says the rate of those needing more specialist mental health treatment in the Armed Forces was one in 43 personnel, lower than in the general civilian population. 

Overall, women were more likely to ask for help than men, reflecting trends within the general population. 

The MOD has now published a new wellbeing strategy following the release of the statistics, which aims to ensure all people in defence are in a state of "positive physical, mental and social health and wellbeing".

The Defence People Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022-2027, published in June, states that the strategic objective moving forward is to "create, promote and maintain the conditions for defence people – military and civilian – to live healthy lifestyles in healthy environments". 

Adding that in order to maximize employability and wellbeing, the MOD must reduce injury, illness and suicide as far as possible and "improve our attitudes and culture" when it comes to how defence tackles mental health. 

The MOD says that while looking after the physical and mental health of serving personnel benefits defence, it recognises that "the evolving nature of operations and demanding working and living conditions can compromise health and wellbeing". 

"Added to this is the inherently dangerous and physical nature of some defence work," it added. 

Chief of Defence People Lieutenant General James Swift and Director General Defence Medical Services Peter Homa said in a joint statement that "the health and wellbeing of our people is something we deeply care about". 

The statement added: "By supporting it we enable our people to realise their full potential, maximise their talent and productivity, and thereby optimise operational effectiveness. 

"We both want and need our people to be the best possible version of themselves and to thrive because they are a part of defence; this is both better for them and better for defence." 

The plan set out in the strategy is for the MOD to adopt a different attitude to educate and enable people to live healthy lives in healthy environments.  

Lt Gen James Swift and Dr Peter Homa said: "We will formally adopt an evidenced and holistic approach to health and wellbeing and will no longer have a separate mental health strategy. 

"Instead, we will consider physical, mental and social health and wellbeing as one and recognise the critical influences of lifestyle and environment, not just people factors."