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Confidence and self-esteem in the Armed Forces world


Coming from a military background is a huge source of pride for Armed Forces young people, and for many, forms a key part of their identity. However, they often feel the forces are “not as appreciated here” in Scotland and “there’s a lack of respect, lack of understanding”. Issues relating to the forces may only enter civilian awareness by way of media coverage of wars and world events, which can be a source of frustration and tension. “Even Armed Forces Day isn’t always talked about in schools”.

Civilian friends may also misunderstand the challenges of forces life:

  • “oh my friends will go you’re really lucky having like a holiday but my Dad’s just back from a warzone!”
  • “I’m not bragging”
  • ”They don’t get the other side of it, this is just my part of the story”

This can make it difficult to celebrate the amazing parts of being from a forces family like the access to unique opportunities. Some young people tell us that they love moving and being able to start again, meet new people and reshape themselves.

  • “I act different every time I go to a new school”
  • “I’m likeable. Optimistic. Relaxed. Cool to be around”
  • “I take pride in doing something well. Like no, let me fix that”

Some young people highlight confidence in creating and maintaining relationships, as well as forms of resilience or adaptability to new situations. “I can deal quite well with change”.

Others discuss ‘local’ as being Europe because they have travelled and moved so much and talk about being “really grateful for the opportunities like living in hot and sunny places but wish I could still see childhood friends”.

Some people have never moved, and some people have moved lots – “someone said they’ve lived in their house their whole life and I was like really? I’ve never had that”.

From our work with Armed Forces young people, there are several key themes which occur again and again:

  1. Armed Forces young people are all different – don’t make assumptions!
  2. There are lots of things to celebrate but young people aren’t always given the opportunity
  3. It is difficult to be able to talk about or translate strengths to civilians – “I can be quite smart just not at the things you’re doing”
  4. It’s important to “to recognise the work the young people from an Armed Forces family do” as the whole family play a part in service

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.