'One In Four From Military Community Feel Lonely', Forces Charity Says

One in four members of the armed forces community feel lonely or socially isolated 'always' and 'often', according to research conducted by the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The study looked at the views of serving personnel, veterans and their families.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

"Loneliness can affect us all, and social relationships are a key factor in improving physical and mental health.

"It’s important to make sure that there’s always somewhere to turn for support.

"While the majority of our veterans go on to live happy and successful lives, we are working hard to ensure the camaraderie that our men and women experience when they serve continues long after they leave.

"The Veterans’ Gateway signposts towards the wide range of help available, and our Veterans Strategy, due for publication later this year, is committed to recognising veterans for their service and ongoing contribution to society after making the transition to civilian life."

The Veterans' Gateway provides a 24-hour advice service to help with issues such as finance, housing and health.

The RBL has held a symposium in London on Wednesday, bringing together members of the government with charity workers and veterans to discuss some of the issues around isolation.

Among those speaking was Mike Kiff, who talked about his own issues when he was medically discharged from the Army and sought help from a Personnel Recovery Centre (PPC) in Germany.

He says the first step on changing how he felt was going to the PPC at Brydon House where he received one-to-one support and advice.

"When the injury happened, it's at that moment I knew things were coming to an end - it's probably the loneliest I have ever felt in my life," said Mike Kiff.

Mike Kiff in Afghanistan
Mike Kiff served in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans during his 17-year Army career. (Courtesy: Mike Kiff/Royal British Legion).

"I wasn't able to do the things I was wanting to do, wasn't interacting with my friends.

"Even on tour people were looking at me differently.

"I just started closing off, was in a lot of pain, it was terrible."

"I got back to a regiment where most of my friendship group were either in Afghanistan or had left Germany already, I just really had nobody to turn to."

'The loneliest I have ever felt in my life' - Mike Kiff and his wife Linda talk about feeling isolated.

Mike's wife Linda Kiff says her husband has "completely changed" since he felt his feelings of loneliness when he was discharged.

"It's terrifying, there was no easy way about trying to help him and still be a mother and a wife."

Mike says awareness of social isolation and loneliness needs to be given to the military from the bottom up.

"Education on this now I think is key.

"When somebody is injured, they get ridiculed which forces them into isolation themselves.

"By educating from the ground up, I think that is going to be key."