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Updated : August 1, 2022 2.5 mins read

Talking and opening up in the military

Updated : August 1, 2022 2.5 mins read


This quote from an Armed Forces young person highlights some of the key challenges that can prevent young people feeling able to open up, and perhaps feeling isolated in their experiences.

“I think many assume if you stay in the same place and don’t move with your parents on different drafts that everything is fine, when in fact growing up, I had no peers who could relate to the ups and downs of being part of a military family. This was compounded further as a young person with additional support needs”.

A range of needs

Although some families live in communities with a high forces population or are located around bases, other families choose to move elsewhere or indeed, to stay put, to best support their family as a whole.

There can be other layers complicating matters such as additional support needs or health concerns which could isolate some young people further if they aren’t able to engage as fully as they would like in some activities.

Others live geographically distant from their peers and may not realistically be able to participate in person. Different young people will need different wellbeing support, which is why the Your Mind Matters project is delivering a diverse range of digital, face-to-face and peer support models.

Read more about the YMM Project

Speaking the same language?

Many young people are frustrated with the assumptions made about them and tell us that “the simplest things are the hardest to explain”. This can be a real barrier when young people don’t have the shared language to talk to civilians about forces life and may not know how to translate their feelings about mental health either.

There can be concerns that issues will not be taken seriously, or that educators/professionals may brush off the importance or be too busy to take the time to speak to Armed Forces young people. Young people also tell us they often don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling for fear of upsetting others and may hide information from other family members in an effort to protect them. As “the family dynamic changes so much”, it can be difficult to find the right time to open up at home and communicating with a parent/carer on deployment is challenging:

“you can only facetime in a public place but then there’s hustling and bustling in the background so you can’t have proper conversations… you don’t have the privacy. Sometimes dad will go back to his room but then the signal is so bad”.

What helps? Ideas from young people

  • Buddy system in schools
  • Examples of good practice in schools
  • Local area introductions
  • Educating schools on forces life
  • Writing down worries
  • Connecting with peers from a forces background
  • Forces specific clubs and communities


“Already this experience has helped me to push myself outside my comfort zone and talk to other people which has helped me feel more understood as I am with other people who have been through similar experiences.”

Armed Forces young people are keen to connect in physical and digital communities where there is a forces life focus because it allows more open communication without fear of misunderstanding or being judged, as well as providing a more accessible opportunity to celebrate their strengths.

This is why Forces Children Scotland is committed to participation and wellbeing service delivery with co-production embedded throughout all of our work.

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