Mind Kind

Mind Kind: Forces Families Share Mental Health Struggles

Mind Kind is a week-long BFBS series focusing on mental health in the military.

As part of BFBS' Mind Kind project, Forces News has been looking into some of the mental health challenges facing military personnel and their families.

Katie Broomfield, who is married to an army officer, says she has faced numerous challenges after her then-fiance was badly injured by an IED explosion in Afghanistan which killed two of his colleagues.

While the incident happened 10 years ago, Ms Broomfield said it wasn't "until the dust had settled" that she had time to think about what had happened.

"I don’t think I realised how impacted I was by what happened," Ms Broomfield told Forces News.

"I think I never would have realised the impact that this life and the military would have had on me."

Moving house as part of the military can also be a difficult time for some forces families. 

In the 10 years since her husband's injury, Ms Broomfield has moved house eight times and is due to move again soon.

She said: "Sometimes there's no real end in sight to this sort of constant shift of moving somewhere, trying to get settled and meeting people in this sort of six-month window.

"You've got a year of being settled and being really happy, then you get told where you're moving and then you almost kind of stop living where you're living in order to emotionally connect to where you are moving to."

As well as this, Ms Broomfield has had had to overcome the death of relatives and pregnancy loss.

“For some of those, we’ve been in somewhere where we’ve just moved to and we don’t know anybody,” she said.

 “It really drives home how isolating this can be sometimes.”

Mind Kind is a week-long BFBS series focusing on mental health.

Other military families say they have also struggled with relocation.

Nicola Flanagan, whose partner is also in the Army, said she feels military lifestyle can "definitely" lead to feelings of isolation.

"It is easy to sort of draw into yourself and just cope and not really realise that there's a problem," she said.

Ms Broomfield also said her son has faced difficulties as a result of her husband's service.

She said she once spoke to her son's school as she was struggling to cope with him at home.

It later transpired that “he was worried his dad was going to get hurt again".

"The knowledge of daddy going away with the Army, knowing what the Army does, knowing that soldiers go and fight... [it] had a much greater impact on our son than we even thought about," she said.

Grace Bull, whose partner is in the RAF, also said her then four-year-old daughter had "really struggled" while her father was away on deployment.

The little girl was unable to sleep through the night and had "really awful nightmares". 

There are organisations and charities that help military families with mental health challenges.

Ms Broomfield said her experiences have helped the work she does with charities. 

"I think that we need to understand each other and realise finding it difficult is okay...but you need to talk about it, you need to speak to people," she said.

This article features as part of Mind Kind - a week-long series of interviews, videos, case studies, and practical tips and information on mental health and forces families, across BFBS platforms.