A lot of my work involves supporting military spouses or children and this is probably because I am also a military wife. For the past 25 years I have experienced what this life brings with it, the frequent moves, the constant change, the saying goodbye and the disruption to our family. There is also the constant uncertainty – as well as the worry of getting through a deployment. I know that being in this military life can be really tough.
Mental health and well-being is a subject that is personal to me as I entered this profession after my own mental health illness and the struggles that this brought. My illness came at a time in my life when my husbands job made it difficult for him to support me (although he did his best) and I lived far away from my family, not to mention a posting move in the middle of my treatment and a change in NHS providers! But if it wasn’t for the amazing support that I received from my mental health practitioners I am not sure where we would be today. It was a long journey, with other challenges thrown in along the way, but with the correct support we got through it, and it has made me and my family stronger.
This is why I am so passionate about mental health and supporting you to reach out and get the help that you need, even if it is just encouraging you to open up to someone for a chat. I know that this life can be hard and it is difficult for ‘civies’ to understand, we often hear ‘well you knew what you were getting into right’. This maybe true but we can face challenges to our mental wellbeing that few in the wider civilian community experience, we put up with more than most and this can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and it can put us under enormous stress.
The Army Families Federation (AFF) believes that in the UK there are four main areas that could impact on the wellbeing of spouses and military families, and raise the risk of illnesses such as depression. This includes:
Deployment – This is an obvious cause of anxiety and stress for families and with pre tour exercises, partners can often be away for months on end. the build up to them leaving is just as stressful as them actually going and can cause a huge mixture of feelings for us to deal with including resentment and the feeling of abandonment.
Mobility – Families can move every two-three years and often do not have a choice in where they move to. Moving like this impacts on transferring schools, losing friends, changing jobs and as I mentioned NHS waiting lists, continuity of healthcare, and even the variations of treatment provided in each location.
Separation – Some service men can be away for months at a time on deployments or training, which means families are often split up. Sometimes families can be separated from their normal network of family and friends, especially if they are posted overseas.
Isolation – Separation also leads on to isolation, especially if people are in a new area. Isolation can occur geographically, or if families live in their own home and have less support from the services that you would receive on base. This can be a huge issue for military spouses and feeling lonely can lead to other mental health issues.
BUT through this resilience, strength and courage will become the core of who you are as a person.
Ways To Cope
There are different levels of treatment depending on your mental health issues, and not every treatment works for everyone but some can help to mitigate the impact on overall wellbeing.
Firstly, reach out and talk to someone – whether that’s your family, a doctor, a friend, a trusted colleague or a neighbour.
If your mental health is still causing you concern my first point of call would be your local GP or welfare team on base if they are overseas, this is to check that there isn’t another underlying condition that may be causing your symptoms.
Treatments from doctors can be:
- A self-help programme.
- A computer based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programme.
- Talking therapy, such as counselling it might be one-one-one or group based.
- Medication such as antidepressants.
- They may suggesting private counselling, like the type I offer.
- Mindfulness techniques like the ones you can find on Headspace
- Exercise, like going for a walk or working out in a gym. Self-care blog
- Peer support. A simple cup of tea and a chat can go a long way
Getting professional help through private counselling is one way of looking after your mental health. Whether it is just a mental health MOT and a way of sorting out your mind muddles to re-establish your priorities or to engage in counselling to deal with a deeper routed issue such as relationship difficulties, self-esteem or a bereavement.
Understanding the military way of life, the lifestyle and the terminology has helped me to work along side many military spouses, serving members and their children. Seeing a counsellor that is part of this unique community will help as you don’t have to explain this ‘way of life’ as I ‘just get it’. If you think that I can help you, please get in touch here contact