The Hidden Battle: Exploring the Mental Health Challenges of UK Defence Workers

Defence worker mental health is a critical issue, particularly as defence employees often face unique challenges in their roles therefore needing that extra mental health support. The well-being of these personnel is not only important for their individual health and happiness but also for the effectiveness of the defence industry as a whole. Addressing mental health concerns can lead to a more productive and resilient workforce.

Overview of Defence Worker Mental Health

In the UK, there is a growing recognition of the prevalence of mental health issues among defence employees. Research efforts over the last 12 years have shed light on the specific challenges faced by UK military personnel. Surprisingly, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates are relatively low, with prevalence rates of around 4% in personnel who have deployed, rising to 6%[1]. The UK Armed Forces provide mental health care to serving personnel through services commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, and support is also available for veterans through organisations like Combat Stress[5].

What Are Some Common Mental Health Problems Faced by Defence Employees in the UK

Common mental health issues faced by defence employees in the UK include:

  1. Anxiety and Depressive Disorders: Research indicates that a significant portion of military personnel experience anxiety, depressive, and adjustment disorders[5].
  2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): While PTSD rates are relatively low among British forces, they still affect a notable percentage of personnel, with prevalence rates of around 4% in deployed personnel, rising to 6%[2].
  3. Alcohol Use Disorders: This is another mental health issue that affects some serving personnel[5].

The UK Armed Forces have seen a steady increase in the percentage of military personnel diagnosed with a mental health disorder over recent years[1]. Despite this, rates of mental disorders seen in military healthcare services have fallen since 2019/20[4].

Mental Health Support & Initiatives

The UK defence sector has implemented various mental health initiatives and support systems. In September 2018, Defence Primary Healthcare introduced a new care pathway for service personnel with common mental health disorders[6]. Additionally, the “Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017-2022” outlines the commitment of the Ministry of Defence to provide resources and mental health support for all defence personnel[8]. Furthermore, the sector has established the “Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme” and specific NHS funding for veterans’ mental health initiatives[8].

Fostering a culture that encourages seeking help and destigmatises mental health issues is of paramount importance. The UK Armed Forces, as an employer of over 200,000 people, have a responsibility to align with the national mental wellbeing agenda and provide integrated support to improve population-wide mental health outcomes[7][8].

How Gallantium offers help

Our resources are designed to drive knowledge transfer and behavioural change. Our team of experts work in the field of workplace mental health and helps to create our content. The content has been created to be engaging and accessible for employees, and to suit a range of different learning styles. We fervently believe in providing practical solutions to help employers manage mental wellbeing issues before they become unmanageable.

Our rolling monthly delivery approach helps employers to demonstrate care and support for good mental health management at all times. It keeps mental health at the top of the agenda, and managers and employees receive the support and knowledge needed to create a permanently safe and healthy workplace environment.

Challenges in Addressing Mental Health

Addressing mental health within the defence sector is not without its challenges. The UK Armed Forces have faced significant obstacles due to the prolonged campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to an increase in the reporting of mental illness among military personnel[7]. Cultural and institutional barriers may hinder the effective implementation of mental health programs. Research indicates that many UK military veterans experiencing mental health and wellbeing problems have difficulties engaging with support[10]. The wide-ranging and complex nature of the defence organisation, with diverse health and wellbeing needs, also presents challenges in coherently addressing mental health across the sector[9].

The Role of Leadership

Leadership plays a crucial role in promoting a healthy work environment, particularly in the defence sector. By fostering open communication and actively supporting mental health initiatives, leaders can create a culture that prioritises the well-being of their personnel. Research has shown that the behaviour of military leaders has a profound effect on the mental health of those they lead, impacting subordinates’ reactions to stressful events and their willingness to seek mental health counselling[12]. Therefore, leaders must act as role models, be open about their own mental health challenges, and create a safe environment for personnel to discuss and seek help for their mental well-being[11].


In conclusion, addressing mental health in the defence sector is of utmost importance. The prevalence of mental health issues among defence employees in the UK, coupled with the unique challenges they face, underscores the need for robust support systems and mental health services. By prioritising defence medical services, specialist mental health services and delivering mental health awareness training the defence sector can not only enhance the well-being of its personnel but also improve overall operational effectiveness. Leadership plays a pivotal role in this endeavour, and by fostering a culture that encourages seeking help and destigmatises mental health issues, significant progress can be made in creating a healthier and more resilient workforce from medical officer through to seals.















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Nadun Baduge
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