Guidelines for members of the Armed Forces Community. These guidelines aim to help you make informed decisions about any mental health care you decide to access.

These guidelines are fully supported by the major providers and influencers of Veterans’ mental healthcare, such as the NHS, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, Walking with the Wounded and Big White Wall. Cobseo and the Ministry of Defence also support these guidelines.

When making a choice about any healthcare treatment you may wish to access there are two main points to consider. Firstly, it is important to ask if the treatment will lead to an improvement in health. Secondly, it is as important to confirm the treatment is delivered in a safe and ethical way.

Ideally any treatment you receive should involve tried and tested methods, and be approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (just look for ‘NICE approved’ when browsing websites). To be NICE approved, a treatment will have been tested thoroughly and there will be evidence that the treatment works. In most cases you should be offered NICE approved treatments first unless there are very strong reasons not to do so. Ideally it is advisable to discuss your treatment needs with a suitably experienced clinician before starting any treatment, NICE approved or otherwise.

However, there may be occasions when you wish to approach organisations which do not provide NICE approved treatment. A treatment may not be NICE approved if it is new or because it has not been properly tested. If you decide to accept treatment from an organisation which does not use NICE approved methods, you should always ensure that they provide you with care that is both safe and ethical.

These guidelines provide you with information about the sorts of questions you should ask so you can be confident that an organisation has taken reasonable steps to provide care in a safe and ethical way, which causes you no harm. Taking the decision to access mental health support can be daunting. The following nine principles have been created to help you ask the right questions at the right time. They also set out what should and shouldn’t happen in the early stages of seeking support.

As a general rule it is worth remembering that ‘if they do all nine, they’re likely to be fine’. This means that if the treatment provider can give you positive answers to all nine principles they are likely to be a safe and ethical service. You should also be content that you understand the pros and cons of the care being offered, including how well tested the treatment has been.