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Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read

Mental health as a young adult from an AF family

Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read


Our article on the teenage brain and mental health helps explain the science behind the changes in our brain as we grow and develop into an adult.

Becoming an adult is a critical stage of development for any young person, and especially so for Armed Forces young people in Scotland with the additional complexities of military life. While there are debates and definitions around how we categorise young people, adults, and children, it is generally accepted in Scotland that young people formally begin their transition to adults from the age of 16. For example, young people can decide to leave school from the age of 16, although children’s rights apply to anyone under the age of 18 (according to the UNCRC).

So what does it mean to be a young adult from an Armed Forces family and how does this impact mental health?

Forces Children Scotland works with Armed Forces children and young people from primary school right through to young adults up to 25 years’ old. If we look at the 16-25 age bracket, there are a vast range of challenges and opportunities, but we have selected some common threads and themes which our young adults tell us are important to them.

It’s not easy

Becoming an adult can be an exciting time full of new opportunities, however it can also bring pressures, particularly around education and employment. Armed Forces young people may experience pressures to follow in the footsteps of their family members or feel uncomfortable pursuing careers which are not as structured as the military. Young people tell us about their distinctive skillsets which have been developed through unique forces life experiences although they sometimes worry that these strengths are difficult to translate or explain in civilian communities. Some young adults feel uncomfortable sharing too much of their forces life as they have experienced negative reactions, including others making assumptions and judgements. Some young adults embrace their forces background while others move on to education or employment where they may not even mention that aspect of their lives. Most young people are looking to create some independence as they begin to take on adult responsibilities and this sometimes means feeling they need to step away slightly from their family military life.

Young people serve too

Whether or not young people decide to join the military, they tell us that they feel like the whole family unit are part of any serving experience, and therefore any transitions (e.g. serving to veteran) also require adjustments from young people. As Armed Forces young people become adults, these shifts may have more pronounced effects as they also begin to navigate relationships, education, and training beyond high school, as well as embarking on new employment journeys. They sometimes feel they are no longer ‘part of the club’ and might not feel as confident integrating with military communities. New anxieties and stresses may form around these multiple layers of transitions, adding further difficulty into an already confusing time. However, some young adults celebrate and highlight their experiences and the young adults from the Your Mind Matters project tell us how much they want to support others (particularly if they have not received that support themselves growing up).

“I hope that the digital platform for Armed Forces young people will create a hub for young people to easily access support as often the support services are aimed at their parents”.

The co-production process of developing the Your Mind Matters demonstrates that while Armed Forces young people are seeking age-appropriate digital information and support, there is a strong desire to learn from, support, and celebrate each other as shown in our co-produced Vision Statement.

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