Helping families of former members of the UK Armed Forces

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Family Force

A new project is reaching out to families of former members of the UK Armed Forces with substance use problems, as Rob Stebbings explains.

Rob Stebbings, policy and communications officer, Adfam - talks about a new project supporting members of the armed forces with substance misuse issues.
Rob Stebbings, policy and communications officer, Adfam

It’s no secret that substance use often affects the lives of former members of the UK Armed Forces. This can take many forms – from self-medication to help come to terms with a traumatic experience to difficulty transitioning from the heavy episodic drinking culture. It’s a serious issue that needs addressing.

However, there is another group of people affected by this issue. The families are a hidden group whose voices are seldom heard, with little or no support available and barely any recognition or research.

Thanks to funding from Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), Adfam and the University of York are working together to understand the experiences and needs of families of former members of the UK Armed Forces with substance use problems and what can be done to support them.

To help us achieve this we are grateful to have vital input from three family members with lived experience, and four partner organisations—the Armed Forces charity SSAFA, HMP Parc in Wales, Tom Harrison House in Liverpool, and Bristol Drugs Project.

Amanda, one of the family members supporting us shares her experience:

I became involved in this project when I read an email from Adfam and thought, ‘I want to know more about this’. The topic is close to my heart after seeing my brother-in-law’s deterioration from a proud warrant officer class 2 in the British Army who lived for his job, to his ultimate death from alcohol addiction after he had left the forces. This has impacted on my family’s everyday life in so many ways and whilst we remember him fondly this is often tainted by the frustration of not being able to prevent his death. I am also the mother of a rifleman who at 25 is also very aware of the pitfalls of army life, but in listening to his stories of the young men he works with I see that the cycle of coping through the use of substances continues. I am hoping my involvement with the project will provide families with the support they need and believe that Adfam and the University of York can deliver this for them.

At the beginning of July we launched an online survey to hear from families first-hand. Findings from the survey and the other parts of the research will be used to develop a peer support intervention.

If you’re a family member affected by these issues, please do take part in our survey and circulate information about it to your networks. All participants are in with a chance of winning one of two £50 high street vouchers.

Take part here: http://bit.ly/family-veterans-survey

To find out more about the project contact Lorna Templeton, senior research fellow, University of York – lorna.templeton@york.ac.uk; or Rob Stebbings, policy and communications officer, Adfam – r.stebbings@adfam.org.uk

Read more DDN articles on substance misuse problems among armed forces veterans here.