About Defence

Mental Health and Wellbeing for Armed Forces Personnel, their Families and Veterans

The mental health and wellbeing of Service personnel, whether Regulars or Reservists, their families and veterans is a priority for the Government.

If you are in urgent need of mental health support or advice for you or a family member please see the Urgent Advice - Mental Health Support and Contacts link on the right.

Who does what?

Serving Personnel

For those serving in the Armed Forces (including mobilised Reservists), the MOD has worked hard to improve patient care in the area of mental health – the Defence Medical Services have implemented new interventions and mental health professionals are deployed to the front line.

Stress management is now embedded through the chain of command, and mental health awareness is a training and leadership issue in today’s Armed Forces – we are making a concerted effort to de-stigmatise issues around mental health and promote awareness of the professional medical care and support available.

The MOD is committed to providing appropriate training at all levels for its Service personnel, whether as part of routine career development or as part of an operational deployment. The Stress Management Training Centre coordinates the delivery of such training and each of the three Services has its own training delivery team.


The Reserves Mental Health Programme, run in partnership with the NHS, is open to all current or former members of the UK Volunteer and Regular Reserves who have been demobilised since 1 January 2003, following operational deployment overseas as a reservist and who believe that their deployment may have affected their mental health.

Service Families and Veterans

In the UK, the NHS is responsible for delivering healthcare for the families of those serving and veterans. Mental healthcare is a multi-agency delivery effort and the MOD and UK Departments of Health are working with the NHS and Service charities, including Combat Stress, to promote awareness of Veterans’ and Service family issues.

The Defence Medical Services provide healthcare services to families who accompany their serving family member when posted to our major bases overseas.

Armed Forces Covenant and Mental Health

The Armed Forces Covenant states that the Armed Forces Community should enjoy the same standard of, and access to, healthcare as that received by any other UK citizen in the area they live.

MOD has published information leaflets aimed at veterans, serving personnel and their families outlining how the Covenant can help them. If members of our Armed Forces Community feel they have been disadvantaged accessing public services these leaflets will help to identify where to go to address the problem. See Related pages on the right.

‘Fighting Fit: a mental health plan for Servicemen and Veterans’

The Government commissioned Dr Andrew Murrison MP to look in particular at the support for Service personnel and veterans who may suffer from mental health problems due to Service. The MOD is working closely with the Department of Health to take forward the recommendations in Dr Andrew Murrison’s report, ‘Fighting Fit’, which was published in November 2010. See Related pages on the right.

Key recommendations:

  • employing the equivalent of 30 mental health professionals with a remit to ensure that Veterans are able to access mental health care; this is being delivered via the setup of regional mental health services dedicated to the care of veterans with mental health problems. Ten Armed Forces Networks have been established across England, in the existing Strategic Health Authority Areas, and the NHS and Combat Stress are working together in each of these areas to develop services for veterans with mental health problems. The South-West veterans' mental health service, and Pennine Care Military Veterans' service in the North-West are up and running and will manage cases referred by embedded mental health professionals, GPs or other agencies. The other areas will come on stream this year. 

  • In March 2011 a 24-hour helpline with Combat Stress and Rethink was set-up offering help and support on a wide range of issues, health-related and otherwise;

  • launched an e-learning package to help GPs understand the needs of the military, their families and Veterans;

  • Big White Wall is an online early intervention service for people experiencing emotional distress. It offers anonymous support 24/7 through a trial for serving personnel, veterans and their families. The service combines social networking principles with a choice of clinically informed interventions to improve self management of mental wellbeing. Big White Wall is continually staffed by Wall Guides and has access to senior clinicians from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust 24/7. Big White Wall is currently a trial for serving personnel, veterans and their families and an evaluation of the trial will take place in due course. Visit: Big White Wall website

Where can I get more information? See the External links on the right.

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