Mental Health Support for Veterans

Mental Health Support for Veterans

Read on for information and advice about being a veteran and the impact of this on mental health, as well as where to find the right support for you if you are struggling.

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Mental Health Support for Veterans
What is a veteran?

What is a veteran?

In the UK, the term ‘military veteran’ refers to anyone who has been part of the Armed Forces, regardless of position or time spent. This includes all personnel of any gender identity, who have served one day or more in any occupation within the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, or the Army. It also includes Reservists and National Service personnel, as well as anyone in the Merchant Navy if involved in conflict.

A veteran is not defined by the length or nature of their service, and all veterans can experience difficulties with their mental health following, or during, their time in the Armed Forces.

Some common experiences include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, and Depression, as well as difficulty adjusting to civilian life. if you are a veteran and you are struggling with your mental health, it’s OK to feel this way and support is available.

Veterans and Mental Health

Veterans can face a number of challenges that can impact physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It is also common to face issues around housing, finances, and living with a disability.

Some mental health conditions that veterans can experience are:

  • PTSD – this can develop shortly after a traumatic event, or can develop months or years later. PTSD is a natural human response to experience traumatic or life-threatening events, and can occur in many different ways. Find out more here.
  • Anxiety – anxiety is our body’s way of responding to potential threats or dangers, and it’s a normal human reaction. If you feel your anxiety is getting in the way of your day-to-day life, you can find information, advice, and further support in our Anxiety module.
  • Depression – it is common to experience feelings of low mood from time to time, however if you have been feeling low for at least two weeks and are experiencing issues such as difficulty sleeping or getting out of bed, feeling hopeless, change in appetite, or you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, this could be depression. You can find support here or if you are in immediate danger, Get Help Now.  
Veterans and Mental Health

While many of us experience mental health conditions at some point in our lives, being a veteran can also have an impact on us in other ways.

Many veterans have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after leaving the forces, and some find this has a long-term impact on their wellbeing. Others use alcohol or drugs to try and cope with difficult feelings or emotions, which can be damaging to our mental and physical health. If you are using substances to cope with your feelings, you may want to read our Substance Misuse module to find further support.

Some of us can experience difficulty managing angry feelings, and this can be impacted by the experience of being an Armed Forces veteran. Anger is a natural response to some situations, and military training encourages using aggression in a specific way to respond to threats. However, this can become a common difficulty for veterans returning to civilian life; we may bottle up our angry feelings (because we are trying to hide that we are struggling) then have sudden outbursts, or we could respond aggressively and end up hurting ourselves or someone else. Take a look at our Anger module for further support and advice.

If you are concerned for your safety, or someone else’s, click ‘Get Help Now’ at the top of this page or ring 999 in an emergency. For non-urgent support, you can find a wide range of services in your local area here.

Is my experience as a veteran affecting my mental health?

Read on to learn more about how your experience in the Armed Forces may be affecting your mental wellbeing, and hear from others about what helped them to cope.

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Is my experience as a veteran affecting my mental health?

Do I need support with my mental health?

We all have different experiences with our mental health, and we will all respond to life changes or traumatic events in different ways. There's no right or wrong way to feel, and whatever you are experiencing is valid. 

Read through the following experiences and tick any that you can relate to: 

If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be helpful to seek further support. You may be struggling to cope with civilian life following your experience in the Armed Forces, and might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It’s important to find the right support for you, and you can search for this here. More
If you are thinking about self-harm or suicide, it’s important to ask for help. You are not alone, and there are people who can help you through this. Click ‘Get Help Now’ at the top of this page, or ring 999 in an emergency. More

How do I ask for help?

It is common for veterans to believe that struggling with mental health is perceived as ‘weak’, and this can lead to some of us hiding how we feel and trying to push our feelings away. We may fear that something is wrong with us, and many veterans wait years before they feel able to seek support for their mental health difficulties.

Everyone struggles with their mental health at times, and experiencing feelings such as anxiety, low mood, fear, and stress are normal reactions to difficult life experiences, such as traumatic events and adjusting to civilian life after service.

If you are finding it difficult to cope, for whatever reason, it’s OK to feel this way. Whether you have recently left the Armed Forces or have been a veteran for several years, there is a wide range of support available.

How do I ask for help?

Where can I find support?

Find information about specialist services offering a broad range of support for veterans and families, in Sussex and across the UK. 

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Where can I find support?

Ways to access support and healthcare

There are many services offering support for veterans across Sussex and the rest of the UK. This can range from mental health support, financial advice, help with housing and employment, advice and support for families and loved ones, and opportunities to connect with other veterans.

Op COURAGE: The Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Service offers support for you, or someone you know, who is struggling with their mental health as a veteran. You will speak to someone with experience of the armed forces and military life, who can understand how you are feeling and will work with you to make sure you find the right support.

If you live in Sussex, you can refer yourself by filling out this form, then emailing your completed form to cim-tr.veteranstilservice-lse@nhs.net.

Alternatively, you can contact Op COURAGE by calling 020 3317 6818, or via Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust by calling 01444 441 881 (extension no. 68542).

PLEASE NOTE: The Veterans’ Mental Health and Wellbeing Service is not a crisis service. If you or anyone else is at risk of immediate harm, please call 999. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 111. 

Support for veterans in Sussex:

Veterans' Growth
Providing horticultural therapy, as well as opportunities to socialise, gain confidence, and develop knowledge and experience, to any veterans facing mental health difficulties. Call 07379 435 513 or email hello@veteransgrowth.org.

SSAFA Sussex
Supporting veterans and families affected by issues such as housing, benefits, post-traumatic stress, and mental health conditions following their service in the Armed Forces. Call 0845 241 7141, access urgent help via 0800 260 6767, or contact a Forcesline advisor online using the live chat service.

The Royal British Legion
Offers information and support regarding welfare, resettlement into civilian life, learning, and employment opportunities for serving and former UK Armed Forces. Call 0808 802 8080 or email info@britishlegion.org.uk.

The Ripple Pond
Provides confidential peer support for families of Armed Forces personnel and veterans, and opportunities to connect in-person or online with others with similar experiences. Call 0333 900 1028 or email help@theripplepond.org.

Support for veterans in Sussex:

National services offering support for veterans:

Combat Stress
Support for living with combat-related stress. Support includes a 24-hour confidential helpline for veterans, families and carers, as well as local outreach centres.

Phone: 0800 138 1619

Veterans’ Gateway
Connecting veterans and their families with help, advice, and support for a variety of welfare needs from a network of services. Advisors are available 24-7 via phone on 0808 802 1212, by texting 81212, or via Live chat on the website.

Veterans UK
Provides free support for veterans and their families. Services include a helpline, Veterans Welfare Service, Defence Transition Service, and injury/bereavement compensation scheme payments.

Freephone (UK only): 0808 1914 218 (Monday to Friday 8am-5pm)

Help for Heroes
Helping wounded veterans and their families to recover and get on with their lives. Services includes physical, psychological, financial, and welfare support for as long as needed.

Phone: 0300 303 9888

The Regular Forces Employment Agency
Helping those leaving the Armed Forces to find and retain employment through life-long support, job recruitment, and training opportunities. Register on the website, call 0121 262 3058, or email info@rfea@org.uk.

Get Help

Get Help

If you are a veteran and you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to reach out for support. Veterans' Growth is a good place to start, or you can search for services in your local area here.

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