Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read
Updated : August 1, 2022 3 mins read
Being in a Forces family does present challenges, however what isn’t very well understood is the positive aspects of forces life.
Young people in the core Your Mind Matters working group told us that “there are positives to military life, people just don’t ask”.
This highlights an important issue around mental health – that it only means struggles, or mental health issues. We all have mental health which exists somewhere on a spectrum from happy and thriving with positive and resilient mental health, to struggles including low mood, general anxiety, and poor self-esteem, to more serious or persistent mental health issues such as depression.
The stigma around mental health often prevents conversations happening, and when they do, the focus tends to be the negative aspects which is only natural as we feel that this is what needs ‘fixed’. However, everyone will also have a range of supportive and protective mental health factors and recognising and celebrating these helps to promote a healthier balance.
For Armed Forces Children and Young People, there are many positive mental health aspects that we can experience. Forces life often involves a strong sense of community and identity forged around shared values and goals, similar experiences and pride in their serving, reservist, or veteran family members. Young people sometimes tell us that they enjoy moving, for example, because of the diversity of their friendship groups, greater cultural experience living in varied locations and the ability to start again and become someone new.
As one young person commented, “I don’t mean to brag but I think I’m likeable. Optimistic. Relaxed. Cool to be around”. Others discuss ‘opportunities’ including how helpful forces specific support is because “it’s what makes us in the club” and they “want to know you’re not alone in the situation”.
Although there are sometimes worries about sharing their unique experiences, young people are excited by the activities they get to do (which are often subsidised by the military) like horse-riding or skiing, and many have found a passion for these types of active hobbies. Young people are “grateful for the opportunities like living in hot and sunny places” and even describe the fact that “local means Europe” as they may have a richer depth of experience living in different countries. Forces life often means “being able to have different adventures or meet different people during things like holidays when in camp with parents”.
Relationships are another positive feature of forces life, with young people proud of their ability to maintain long-distance or digital friendships as well as “making different bonds with people” including feeling like they can easily assimilate into new environments because many have done so previously.
Our co-production work around the Your Mind Matters vision statement also highlighted that young people want to celebrate strengths and their lived experience and are keen that the new website is something “everyone can use, not just those directly affected but those around and the wider civilian community so they can understand too”. This sense of inclusivity resonates across our participation work and showcases the strength of Armed Forces young people in building and developing strong relationships, which we know are a critical buffer for any shocks to mental health.
There isn’t much research investigating what the positive aspects of being in a forces family are, however as you can see from our young people, there clearly are positives!