Armed Forces personnel may be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues and the stigma associated with them. Armed Forces MHFA was launched in April 2013 to help address these concerns. The course aims to give serving personnel, veterans, their families, and organisations who work with them, the skills and confidence to support someone experiencing a mental health issue. Since 2013, 185 Armed Forces MHFA instructors have trained 6,600 people in this community as Armed Forces Mental Health First Aiders.

The first evaluation into the effectiveness of Armed Forces MHFA found evidence that the programme:

  • Helps to improve mental health literacy

  • Reduces stigma and misunderstandings surrounding mental health

  • Holds the potential to provide longer term support to personnel, veterans and their families by identifying mental health issues early and enabling people to access the necessary support services

This mixed method evaluation included both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (observations, interviews, and focus groups with an expert steering group) elements. Participants were surveyed before and after training and at a follow up after 10 months. 602 trainees completed the initial surveys and 120 completed the follow up.

Quantitative findings revealed that:

  • Immediately following training, trainees showed a significant increase in knowledge, attitudes, and confidence. This effect was sustained at the 10 month follow up

  • There was a small but significant decrease in knowledge which occurred from post training to follow up. Despite the decrease from post training to follow up, overall, knowledge, attitudes, and confidence were all significantly higher than at baseline

Qualitative findings reported that trainees:

  • Increased their knowledge, understanding and confidence in talking about and communicating with people who have mental health issues

  • Had improved listening skills, advice giving, and confidence in asking difficult questions regarding mental health issues

Armed Forces MHFA instructors reported:

  • Increased learning and confidence in understanding and managing mental health through the training experience

  • Shared feeling with other instructors and trainees of wanting to support and help the promotion of mental health and its awareness in the Armed Forces community

  • The need to manage military and civilian dynamics within the courses

Armed Forces MHFA instructors made a number of recommendations including:

  • Embedding MHFA into the Armed Forces formal training schedule to ensure the sustainability of the programme

  • The development of central coordination and communication including a networking facility between MHFA instructors

  • The targeting of specific population groups for the promotion of Armed Forces MHFA courses, for example, service personnel, ex-service, and the families of veterans

Download pdf:
Crone, D. et al. University of Gloucestershire. 2016: Evaluation of the Mental Health First Aid in the Armed Forces Community Project - Final Report