Military veterans are set to benefit from a dedicated new mental health app to help them deal with the long-term emotional challenges of adjusting to life after the Forces.
The free Samaritans Veterans app comes on the back of joint research the leading suicide prevention charity carried out with the Royal British Legion, which found that veterans wanted to understand more about their emotional wellbeing and to hear from people with similar experiences. Those leaving the military and former Armed Forces personnel can access emotional health and wellbeing information, videos, exercises, podcasts, and create wellbeing to-do-lists in the app to help look after themselves and connect with the veteran community.
The new app is part of a programme at the charity that works with the Ministry of Defence and military charities to support serving personnel in the Armed Forces, veterans and their families, and is funded by a £3.5m LIBOR grant.
Navy veteran Liam (27), who used Samaritans for support when he was struggling with suicidal thoughts, believes the support could help veterans leaving the Armed Forces in the same way he is now.
“I left the navy in June, so I’m just getting to grips with the adjustment of a different pace of life.
“The support resources in the app are great and I like that you can do daily check ins to help manage your moods. Anything that can help you to get on with the everyday things is so useful when you have just left a familiar routine. I have used Samaritans service in the past and the volunteer I spoke to helped me out of a huge hole. To anyone feeling low, don’t be afraid to ask for help and confide. You don’t need to carry the weight of stress on your own, and your world will feel more manageable if you can take steps to look after your wellbeing and talk to others.”
Samaritans volunteers provide emotional support to the military community with concerns including mental health, isolation and loneliness, family and relationship problems, and most contacts are from veterans. In April 2020, the first full month of the pandemic lockdown, the charity saw the largest volume of military contacts since Samaritans began to record contacts from the military community in 2018 and 79% were veterans.
Samaritans Veterans App will support veterans to learn ways to manage their emotional responses to situations, deal with the new day-to-day reality and help to identify challenges and develop ways to overcome them. The app also has access to volunteering and peer support by connecting people to the wider veteran community.
JJ Chalmers, a veteran Lance Corporal in the Royal Marines and TV presenter, said:
“Life in the Armed Forces can be very challenging, and people who have recently left active service are particularly likely to struggle after losing that structure, camaraderie and sense of purpose.
“We all have mental health, and we should actively choose to maintain it, rather than dealing with it as a last resort. Anything that helps provide support is invaluable. The Samaritans Veterans App is a great tool to help keep track of your wellbeing and includes useful resources if you are having a difficult time.”
Samaritans Military Programme Manager and former Army Officer Joseph Walcott said:
“Military veterans have proudly served their country but may find themselves in need of a helping hand once they have to readjust to civilian life.
“Leaving the military is a really big deal and veterans we have spoken to have told us that they would have benefited from additional support and guidance for their mental wellbeing during this period in their lives.
“With our data showing that veteran callers are almost twice as likely to report suicidal ideation compared to callers from the general population, we wanted to help. The new Samaritans Veterans app provides a practical way for those leaving the military and veterans to look after their own emotional health and that of their families, as well as support each other through a period of real upheaval in their lives.”
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Leo Docherty said:
“The Samaritan’s Veteran App will help ensure that all those who have served can access mental health and wellbeing support if they need it.
“The app will allow veterans to manage everyday tasks through a range of tools. Regardless of when you served, I urge all veterans to download the app to support their day-to-day wellbeing.”
The Samaritans Veterans App is available to download (Samaritans Veterans) on your phone from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) or use the desktop version here.