Civilian and military teams at the Ministry of Defence have been encouraged to spend this week discussing mental wellbeing, as the department throws its weight behind Mental Health Awareness Week.
The MoD has announced a package of support including training in listening skills for serving personnel and families, and a confidential webchat service for those on operations overseas.
The measures will be led by mental health charity Samaritans, which will also be training volunteers with military experience to address issues in a military environment.
This week the department has asked managers to outline available support, including the recently launched Combat Stress 24-hour mental health hotline, while the MoD’s internal defence blog will host discussions on stress and resilience.
Tobias Ellwood, minister for defence people and veterans, said the MoD was organising a series of events, talks and briefings this week to tackle the stigma of mental health and show a commitment to helping people overcome “the invisible wounds of war” as well as the physical ones.
“I want to make sure there isn't a single person in the Forces who doesn't know where to turn in times of trouble,” he said, adding that there are no 20 sites around the country providing mental health care for MoD personnel.
The measures are backed by £3.5m from the Libor Fund – money collected from banks fined for manipulating the Libor rate, which has been given to military and emergency services charities since 2012.
In February, defence secretary Gavin Williamson increased funding for Armed Forces mental health services to £220m over the next 10 years, and launched a 24/7 helpline (0800 323 4444) that has so far received around 350 calls.
Announcing this week’s new initiatives, Williamson said he was committed to making sure no one in the military “suffers in silence”.
He added: “I’m delighted to announce that personnel serving abroad will be able to access a new confidential system to help them in their time of need.”
The department’s Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which focuses on preventative measures, was launched last year.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, said Mental Health Awareness Week was an opportunity to talk to about ways of dealing with stress in the workplace. On Twitter, he reiterated the civil service’s pledge to become the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020.
“Good mental health is essential for our wellbeing and for a strong, happy and productive workplace,” he said.
A new mental health guide for civil service managers, available through HR, has been developed in partnership with the Cross Government Mental Health Network to offer practical support to managers.