Here we share information and support available if you are struggling with alcohol misuse, smoking and problem gambling, or you are a family member of someone who is struggling.

Smoking

Smoking continues to be the most significant public health challenge in the UK as a whole and in the UK Armed Forces specifically.

The severe long-term health consequences of smoking are well known: smoking kills over 200 people a day in England. Smoking also has significant and immediate implications for the wellbeing of our people, contributing to poor respiratory wellbeing, low aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength and musculoskeletal injury which are common factors for medical discharge.

Get help to stop smoking

Alcohol misuse

Previous research has shown that alcohol misuse is higher in the UK Armed Forces than in the general population, and that this persists after an individual leaves service, particularly for those who are seeking help for a mental health condition.

Alcohol is the fifth leading cause of death and disability globally. The cost of alcohol-related harms in the UK has been estimated at £21 billion a year. Regular drinking also increases the amount of calories consumed and can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Help with problem drinking

Evidence from behavioural science suggests that simple and easy ways of helping people to change their behaviour are the most effective.

For example: Setting yourself a target of having more drink free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to your health.

  • Drinks:Ration app is a new smartphone app found to be successful in helping UK veterans to reduce alcohol consumption in a trial of 120 UK funded by Forces in Mind Trust.

  • DrinkAware is a website which provides useful information and tools to help make better choices about drinking.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous supports the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to them for help. They offer meetings in person, or online where the emphasis is on personal recovery with anonymity, so that the person attending can openly discuss issues in confidence.

  • The Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has produced a self-help guide on alcohol use. It provides information about different types of drinking and helps you to recognise your own drinking patterns.

Problem gambling

Problem gambling, which may be online or offline, is when a person’s behaviour is affected in a negative manner by their persistent or recurring gambling. The behaviour causes harm to the gambler and those around them including family and friends. This negative behaviour may lead to finance difficulties, mental health problems and relationship breakdowns.

The RAF Benevolent Fund’s research, Meeting the Needs of the Serving RAF Community 2018, found that between 2-5% of RAF serving personnel thought gambling could be a problem for them.

Where to go for help with problem gambling?

Gambling support for the Armed Forces Community

GamCare is a gambling support charity that provides free information, advice and support for anyone affected by problem gambling and also operates the National Gambling Helpline.

GamCare now offers a programme specifically for the Armed Forces Community > 

  • Battling the Odds – free and confidential specialist treatment and support for any currently serving personal or veterans who may be experiencing gambling-related harms.

  • National Gambling Helpline: Freephone – 0808 8020 133 (24hrs a day, 7 days a week)

  • The RAF Benevolent Fund is working with GamCare to raise awareness of when gambling can become a problem and to help serving personnel and their families get help if and when they need it.

  • GAMSTOP is a free tool that helps you control your online gambling. Once registered you will be prevented from using gambling websites and apps licensed in Great Britain, for a period of your choosing (6 months, 1 year or 5 years).

  • The BeGambleAware website offers information around gambling.

  • GambleAware is a charity that works to prevent gambling addiction. The treatment page of its website outlines what help is available to those worried about gambling.

  • The Gamblers Anonymous website offers various aids for the compulsive gambler including a forum, a chat room, literature and most importantly a meeting finder.
  • Justyn Rees Larcombe, previously a Major in the British Army, he found himself gambling large amounts of money after leaving Service. After reaching an extremely low point he was able to turn his life around and no longer gambles. Read about his story here.

  • Justyn has also written a Transition Guide, which has been published by the Army, called “Gambling – A Serious Risk to Military Personnel”. It is informative reading for anyone concerned about their own, or a person they know, gambling habits. Click on the link above and scroll down to find the guide.

If you have explored all avenues and have been unable to change your behaviours, you may want to consider rehabilitation services, such as The Priory Group. In these facilities you can get access to specialist support across many locations for mental health treatment as well as alcohol, drugs and behavioural addictions such as gambling. Available through NHS hospitals and the Group’s private hospitals.

Support for families

Forces Family Support helpline 0300 222 5747

Supporting Armed Forces families affected or bereaved by a loved ones harmful use of alcohol, drugs or gambling. Free support for those currently serving, veterans and reservists and their families, carers, colleagues and friends.

Forces Family Support information