Armed forces helpline SSAFA reports surge in demand

SSAFA is a confidential helpline set up to help troops. Picture: Craig Borland
SSAFA is a confidential helpline set up to help troops. Picture: Craig Borland
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An Armed Forces charity has reported an 85 per cent increase in requests for help from serving troops to its confidential helpline.

SSAFA, formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen & Families Association, set up Forcesline at the request of the British Army following the deaths of four army recruits at Deepcut Barracks.

The confidential helpline operates independently from the chain of command.

The helpline, which also provides advice to veterans and their families, received 21,983 requests for help last year – a 6 per cent increase on 2014.

But the most striking increase was amongst serving personnel, with more than 3,000 calling Forcesline compared to 1,600 the year before.

Air Vice Marshal David Murray, chief executive at SSAFA, said: “Those who serve in our Armed Forces are by their very nature resilient characters. They are then trained to be the most robust versions of themselves, so for some, asking for help can be a real challenge.

“Therefore, the increase in the number of troops coming to SSAFA for help, although not a cause for panic, is reason for concern.

“It is interesting that the servicemen and women who are contacting us are choosing to come to SSAFA, rather than their own chain of command, as the ‘grin and bear it’ attitude within the serving community remains strong.

“Thankfully, dreadful and heartbreaking images of dead and injured servicemen and women being repatriated from overseas no longer dominate the front pages.

“However, let us be quite clear about this, the United Kingdom is still at war. Our Armed Forces are protecting our national security each and every day and it is imperative that their welfare remains a priority.

“These men and women are exposed to high levels of pressure, unique to their professions, each and every day. They will continue to need encouragement to come forward with their problems and assurance that seeking help will not affect their career.

“We must not allow any of our troops to feel that they need to deal with their issues on their own.”