Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity has today (Tuesday 21 Sept) launched a pilot project to encourage children, young people and parents from serving, reservist and veteran families to talk about unique challenges faced to mental health and wellbeing.
Listening Spaces will provide a free helpline service and weekly virtual discussion groups for the next three months to support children, young people and parents from armed forces family backgrounds to follow a four-questioned approach on mental health and wellbeing.
The pilot project will provide a safe space to talk in confidence and explore views, feelings and emotions about life in a serving, reservist or veteran family with qualified staff from the charity, on either a one-to-one basis or collectively with others with shared experience.
Families will be able to express feelings concerning deployment and uncertainty about loved ones, caring responsibilities for family members with life-changing physical or psychological wounds to unique challenges associated with regular relocations and disrupted friendships.
The recent withdrawal of NATO forces in Afghanistan has triggered a strong sense of feeling within serving, reservist and veteran families across Scotland, and the charity will contribute its expertise to reinforce growing demand within the armed forces community for support.
Such demand has grown considerably in the past month since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, with some veteran charities reporting a 60%-125% increase in daily calls to helplines from serving personnel and veterans, as well as family members and support services.
Children and young people will be able to self-refer themselves to the pilot project via a specially created QR code, and the charity has issued a call to professional and military sectors who come into contact with armed forces families to establish an effective channel of referral.
Chris Paul, Children and Family Services Manager at the Royal Caledonian Education Trust said:
“Children and young people from serving, reservist and veteran families are a seldom-heard group within society and responding to their specific needs, with regard to mental health and wellbeing, is crucial. Listening Spaces will provide Armed Forces children, young people and their families an opportunity to connect and talk about topics which matter the most the them. I believe showing compassion and care when talking about the topics which matter the most will go a considerable way to providing support and a safe space to work through potentially difficult situations, at a time when Afghanistan has returned to the forefront of the minds of so many serving, reservist and veteran families across Scotland. My hope is that Listening Spaces is the first step in delivering an effective range of mental health and wellbeing services for children, young people and their families.”
The charity will develop its mental health service provision further through the launch of the Your Mind Matters Project early next year, which has received funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to co-produce digital resources and face-to-face support with beneficiaries.