New quarterly results released by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity highlight a worrying trend – that young serving personnel and veterans are not coming forward for support and using Forcesline, SSAFA’s free helpline…

The first half of 2019 saw 14,916 incoming contacts by telephone or email. Only eight per cent of these calls were made by someone under the age of 30, despite 89 per cent of under 30s admitting they needed help during or after their military career. In comparison, almost half of the calls Forcesline received were from someone between the ages of 31-50.

The lack of queries from under 30-year-olds does not mean that they don’t need help. New research commissioned by SSAFA shows that almost 50 per cent of serving personnel under the age of 30 didn’t seek help even though they needed support during or after their military career. Just under one in five say they wouldn’t come forward for support because of the stigma around asking for help in the Forces.

Whereas, one in ten say they would feel uncomfortable ringing a helpline to ask for support. Yet, 97% of military personnel under 30 said they would never judge anyone that needed help or advice. Indeed, 9 in 10 would feel inspired to come forward if they knew that their colleagues had done so previously.

The research also shows that it’s not just an issue within the military. 39 per cent of 16-24-year olds said they would prefer to use text or webchat to talk about their issues over a traditional phone call, compared with only 1 in 10 over 55s.

SSAFA has been supporting the Armed Forces community for 133 years and its experience suggests that if concerns are not addressed early, problems around employment, finances and mental health could escalate to a stage where more drastic intervention is necessary.

To try and encourage younger serving personnel and veterans to come forward, SSAFA Forcesline is launching a pilot Web Chat. The new Web Chat will mean younger veterans do not need to talk with someone over the phone to ask for help, they can simply send a message to one of our Forcesline Advisors. The new technology will eliminate the nerves that some people may feel calling a helpline.

Bill Grant, Forcesline Manager at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity explained: “SSAFA has worked hard to encourage a culture change within serving personnel and veterans so that they feel empowered to ask for help. However, this year’s Forcesline data shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the younger generation of serving personnel.

“It’s incredibly important that we make sure our service is flexible and can adapt to fit the needs of the people we support. The new Web Chat will make Forcesline more accessible to younger generations and will encourage those who’ve been reluctant to ask for help to come forward and get the support they deserve.”

If you are a member of the Armed Forces, veteran or a family member in need, contact Forcesline which is independent from the chain of command on 0800 731 4880. Forcesline is open Monday to Friday, 0900 to 1730.