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University professor supports continuation of funding for armed forces mental health training

A University of Gloucestershire lecturer has travelled to Westminster to support Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and a number of large veterans’ charities including the SSAFA, to urge the government to continue to support vital mental health first aid training for armed forces personnel. Diane Crone, Professor of Exercise Science, presented the supporting evidence for the case at the House of Lords on Monday 9 November to an audience made up of politicians, military veterans and high-ranking officers in the armed forces.

The Mental Health First Aid training course for the armed forces has already been undertaken by thousands of serving and ex-serving personnel, with participants learning to spot symptoms of mental health problems and how to provide initial aid and guide a person to appropriate professional help. Funding for this training ends in April 2016 but it has been undergoing an evaluation which Professor Crone has been leading on, and early indicators have highlighted how beneficial the course has been.

Professor Crone said, ‘The training programme was launched in April 2013 in recognition of the importance of mental resilience on and off the battlefield, and the particular emotional challenges the military face. The initial findings from this research project suggest the course improves the trainees’ knowledge of mental health, enhances their attitude towards mental health issues and increases their confidence in supporting those with mental health issues.’

As well as the more than 4,500 members of the wider UK Armed Forces community around the world who have received the training (including serving personnel, veterans and their families), over 180 health and social care professionals, support charity workers, and friends and family, have trained as MHFA instructors.

MHFA England, the social enterprise which delivers the training, said it would be a ‘tragedy’ to bring a halt to the work. The organisation’s patron, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, explained why the work was so valuable: ‘No individual or community is immune from mental ill health but a recent MOD report into military mental health suggests that the diagnosis of mental health conditions has been rising in the military since 2009 and more so than the general population. The armed forces have wholeheartedly embraced mental health first aid and this could be one of the reasons why diagnosis is increasing, because people are willing to seek the help they need or the signs and symptoms of mental ill health are being spotted more readily.’

Picture caption: Professor Diane Crone (right) with Poppy Jaman, CEO MHFA England, and MHFA England’s patron, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE.