Ex Armed Forces


                                          Permission to use this image granted by the MOD’s Open Government Licence.
Many ex military personnel find the move from the Forces to Civvy street quite difficult. This may be down to money problems, lack of support, relocation, problems with housing and just adjusting to a life without orders and structure.

Re-adjusting to life, after serving your country,  can be difficult for both the ex-service person and the family. It can cause stress and may result in you feeling that your mental health has been affected. It may be that you are feeling depressed or anxious whilst adjusting to Civvy Street life. If so, it is important that you talk to someone about how you feel and ‘nip it in the bud’ before it starts to affect you everyday; and the people around you.

Common mental health problems can affect how motivated you feel which can affect how well you manage any problems you may face. For example housing, bills, finance. This in-turn can affect how:

  • stressed you feel
  • how much you want to socialise with friends
  • how you sleep
  • how you think

This can become a vicious cycle as these things can affect your mental health further.

Did you know that approximately 30% of GP appointments are related to mental health? If you feel you need to speak to your GP but don’t know how to approach them download the Mental Health Foundations guide on How to talk to your GP about your mental heath and Click here to be taken to a page dedicated to practical tips and advice when visiting your GP about your mental health.

Below is a quote from a man in his twenties who after leaving the army, found he was feeling depressed even though he had a girlfriend, a doting mum and dad and two brothers; who always wanted him to go out with them.  He had support around him 24/7 but still developed depression. He said:

Permission to use this image granted by the MOD’s Open Government Licence.

Mental health problems after deployment or leaving the forces isn’t always Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is also common mental health problems such as depression and/or anxiety. Emotions such as anger and frustration also play a part.

Depression can happen to anyone – and one in four people can be affected within their lifetime. There are some factors that make it more likely to happen – including biological make-up, our upbringing, or life events. However, what can keep it going, is how we manage these things. The way we think and what we do affects the way we feel.

When feeling depressed you may believe that you have little control over your life and that you are alone. You may blame yourself for all difficulties you are experiencing. In addition, you may lose interest or enjoyment in things around you; which adds to how negative you feel about yourself. It can become hard to make decisions or to carry out little tasks that you once did with no problem at all.

Click here to visit the self help section of this Live Life Well website, where you can follow the basic principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression, Anxiety and Sleep.

You may find this approach explains how you have been feeling and think that seeing a trained therapist face-to-face would really help.If you think speaking to someone is what will help you, visit your GP who can advise you on how to access mental health services. If you haven’t got a GP, click here to find GP services in your area.

Additionally, as ex-armed forces personnel, you can access the Military Veteran’s service which offers an NHS psychological therapy service across the Northwest.


PTSD can affect anyone and start after any traumatic event. The types of trauma that can trigger PTSD symptoms are ones where you see that you are in danger, your life is threatened, or where you see other people dying or being injured. Typical traumatic events would be:

  • serious accidents
  • military combat
  • violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, abuse, robbery, mugging)
  • being taken hostage
  • terrorist attack
  • being a prisoner-of-war
  • natural or man-made disasters
  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness

If you feel you are affected by PTSD then visit your GP who can refer you to a specialist who can assess you and make a diagnosis of PTSD. You may then be offered treatment such as 

Click here to follow a mood self assessment questionnaire. The Mood self-assessment quiz uses questions taken from tests often used by GPs to assess whether someone is anxious or depressed. It has been designed to recommend further reading and resources that may help you better understand how you feel.


Alcohol is a known depressant of mood and can add to feelings of depression.  If you feel your alcohol consumption is increasing visit your GP who can refer you to a local team to help you with this.

A study in The Lancet has found that common mental health problems and the misuse of alcohol are the most commonly reported issues for ex military personnel, returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. This may be the same for other ex -military personnel from all other conflicts.  Click here to download free booklets on a range of mental health conditions. Self Help Guides produced by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

Do you think your loved one is having trouble adjusting to life outside of the forces. Is this causing you distress and worrying you? If so, speak to your GP or a staff member at your surgery.


Fear NT, Jones M,  Murphy D et al (2010). What are the consequences of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan on the mental health of the UK armed forces? A cohort study. The Lancet (2010) 375 (9728): 1783–1797.


Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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