Free Headspace for Army personnel

Regular and Reserve soldiers can now benefit from having a popular mental health toolkit at their fingertips, thanks to a new partnership between the British Army and Headspace.

From this week, and to coincide with World Mental Health Awareness Day on 10 Oct 21, free annual Headspace subscriptions are being made available to all personnel. It follows a successful two-year trial with troops, the results of which have proven to reduce stress and improve sleep. 

Dr Nicola Sides, Senior Health Psychologist and project lead on the Army’s partnership with Headspace, said: “For the past two years I’ve been leading on a service evaluation to understand if Headspace is an appropriate and effective tool to support the mental fitness of the Army. The findings have been overwhelmingly positive.” 

  • 96% of Headspace users reported significant improvements in stress 
  • 91.5% reported significant improvements in helping with sleep with Headspace 
  • 98.2 % of Army employees recommend Headspace 
Headspace is now a cornerstone of my daily routine. I wish I had discovered it years ago." Major Richard Grimsdell

A personal guide to mindfulness 

Headspace is more than a meditation app, it’s a personal guide to mindfulness, sleep, focus, movement and more. From waking up to exercising, eating to sleeping, Headspace has more than 1,000 hours of exercises to help stressed users spend their whole day mindfully - not just when sitting to meditate. 

Warrant Officer Class 1 Simon Parsons’ aim to become one of the top 100 British Army Combat Marksmen’ was realised by using mindfulness to improve his performance. He said: “Mindfulness practice enabled me to train my mind to operate at a level of calm and composure whilst maintaining 100% focus with heightened senses. 

“What I didn’t realise was that the effects of the mindfulness practise were far more reaching, spilling into my daily life, enriching it to such an extent, I felt calm yet driven, almost enlightened. I became more present and in-the-moment, which increased the quality of my relationships.” 

Championed by the Chain of Command 

“We have seen significant health improvements, both a reduction in stress, and improvements in sleep quality,” said Dr Sides. “People fall asleep quicker, sleep for longer and with less disruptions in the night.  Not only this, but personnel have felt invested in and valued by the Army and, by their chain of command championing Headspace, have felt they have permission to look after their wellbeing.” 

Headspace comes as a free-to-use app with basic functions or users can access a whole range of benefits for an annual subscription of £50. The app is available to download on Apple and Android phones and tablets.  

Dr Sides added: “Many of us experience stressors daily as part of life. Whether it is a tight deadline, argument with a partner or deployment. We don’t necessarily need the formal support of a medical professional, but we could still use a helping hand to either reduce that stressor at the time, or equip ourselves with the necessary skills to prevent becoming as stressed, or effected by the stressor in future.” 

"One of the best investments by the MOD"

Major Richard Grimsdell, who took part in the trials, said: “Headspace is now a cornerstone of my daily routine. I wish I had discovered it years ago. The meditation course – this has enabled me to remain calm, open-minded, and create a clear picture from a complicated balancing act.” 

WO2 Roger Coates, Personnel Recovery Centre (North), has been trialling the app with those under his care. He said: “I use many of the techniques when delivering mindfulness training to Wounded, Injured and Sick troops at the PRC. I have recommended Headspace to some very vulnerable troops and have had nothing but good feedback.” 

Sapper Vishalji Odedra, 101 Engineer Regiment (EOD&S) (City of London), said: It has helped with supporting both myself and everyone around myself, taking time to appreciate each and everyone in turn and every moment. It has even helped me support my family members to stop smoking.” 

Sergeant Nick Cole, 22 Engineer Regiment, said: “With a busy work schedule and home life, I was losing touch with who I am and being who everybody else expected me to be. It was exhausting and led to burnout. Headspace has helped me put aside time for myself, to sit and quiet the mind of all the to-do lists, future tasks and past events. It’s like having a rest from your mind for a while. Afterwards, I feel focused, refreshed and rested.” 

Major Emma Allen, Defence Digital – BATCIS, said: “This is one of the best investments the MOD could have made to support serving personnel. I have loved the SOS sleep sessions when my mind is racing.  I use the session to clear my head, relax and I am normally back to sleep in minutes.  

“I also used the pain tutorials after a significant accident in March 2021. They have helped me to understand my body and focus on recovery. This coupled with the sleep SOS has been a critical part of my recovery especially when I could barely walk,” she said. 

What other mental health support is available? 

The Army takes the mental health and well-being of personnel very seriously. Comprehensive mental health support is provided to all soldiers, including pre- and post-operational stress management training and a wide range of psychiatric and psychological treatments and initiatives such as Trauma Risk Management (peer to peer support after a traumatic incident) and anti-stigma campaigns to encourage those who need help to come forward and access the wide support and treatment available to them. 

Soldiers also have access to 24-hour mental health help, including an out of hours helpline provided by Combat Stress on 0800 323 4444. The helpline is targeted towards service personnel and their families.