Armed Forces charity helpline receives 85% increase in help requests from troops


An Armed Forces charity has reported an 85% increase in requests for help from serving troops to its confidential helpline.

SSAFA, formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen & Families Association, set up Forcesline at the request of the British Army following the deaths of four young army recruits at Deepcut Barracks.

It was agreed that the helpline should be completely confidential and operate independently from the chain of command.

The helpline, which also provides advice to veterans and their families, received 21,983 requests for help last year - a 6% increase on 2014.

But the most striking increase was amongst serving personnel, with more than 3,000 calling Forcesline compared to 1,600 the year before.

Air Vice Marshal David Murray, chief executive at SSAFA, said: "Those who serve in our Armed Forces are by their very nature resilient characters. They are then trained to be the most robust versions of themselves, so for some, asking for help can be a real challenge.

"Therefore, the increase in the number of troops coming to SSAFA for help, although not a cause for panic, is reason for concern.

"It is interesting that the service men and women who are contacting us are choosing to come to SSAFA, rather than their own chain of command, as the 'grin and bear it' attitude within the serving community remains strong.

"Thankfully, dreadful and heart breaking images of dead and injured servicemen and women being repatriated from overseas no longer dominate the front pages.

"However, let us be quite clear about this, the United Kingdom is still at war. Our Armed Forces are protecting our national security each and every day and it is imperative that their welfare remains a priority.

"These men and women are exposed to high levels of pressure, unique to their professions, each and every day. They will continue to need encouragement to come forward with their problems and assurance that seeking help will not affect their career.

"We must not allow any of our troops to feel that they need to deal with their issues on their own. They have been there when our country has needed them and we must be there when they need us.

"Consequently, we look forward to continuing to work with the Services in ensuring that the welfare needs of our Forces, and their families, are met with tailored, concrete support."

SSAFA has a network of 7,000 volunteers providing support for serving personnel, elderly veterans and young veterans struggling to transition from military to civilian life.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The Government is absolutely committed to the wellbeing of our Armed Forces and provides a wide range of support both during and after service.

"We enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law and have introduced a raft of measures designed to improve service life.

"The Government works in close partnership with the Service charitable sector on these issues and we value contributions such as this."