Personal issues affecting performance at cadets

Hi there,

I’m new to ACC so please bear with me! I am looking for some much needed advice.

I am 17 and was promoted to Cdt FS 2 months ago. My sqn is relatively small and, following the recent ageing out of our ex-CWO and 2 ex-flight sergeants, I am now the NCO IC.
Initially I felt I was adjusting well to my new rank and position of NCO IC. However, over the past month or so I have faced some big problems at home and personally which I feel are significantly affecting my performance within cadets. My mum was sadly diagnosed with stage 4 terminal breast cancer last month, and obviously this is something which I am finding very difficult to cope with - I understand that this completely natural and that almost anyone would struggle if they were in my situation. However, this, alongside my A-Levels, has had a hugely negative impact on my mental health. I have struggled with my mental health for a long time anyway, although given the situation I am currently really struggling and this is clearly being reflected in my performance at cadets. I have always strived to gain as much as I can from my time in the Corps and plan to do so until I age out - however, because of how this is affecting me, I fear that this may not be completely possible and to be quite honest I really do not know what to do. The staff team at my sqn are all aware of my situation (although not about my mental health) and most of them have been incredibly supportive - although I do feel that some of them do not fully understand how difficult it is and I feel that I am under so much pressure to just carry on as if everything is fine, when in reality it is far from it.
I just feel guilty, because although I have no control over the situation, I feel like I am unable to be an effective FS and to set a good example to my cadets and NCO team because of how this is affecting me. However, the last thing I want to do is to take time off, because cadets has always my “safe space” where I can let go and relax a bit.

I am really lucky to have an amazing support network of close family and friends who I am so so grateful for and in no way would I be able to go through this without them. But to be frank I am just at a complete loss of what to do and could really do with some advice.

Many thanks,


Easy to say - but talk to someone. Is there a suitable person at school? How about your sqn padre at cadets?

Share your issues - whilst you say that cadets is your “safe space” you may be over-loading yourself by trying to take on too much - “A” levels, cadets + your very sad family circumstances.

Family comes first. Your school will be supportive, same for cadets. Don’t put it all on your shoulders.

Really sorry to hear that you’re having to deal with such a difficult situation. You need to look after yourself and let others support you as much as you’re comfortable with. Cadets probably won’t be a priority and that’s absolutely right, but don’t feel that you have to give it up. Cadet’s isn’t all or nothing though.

Speak to your OC and agree what works for you to reduce the pressure at cadets. That might be some time off, temporarily stepping down a rank, reducing your attendance, another NCO getting promoted to FS to share the work.

Sorry to hear of the issues your facing. But thanks for taking the brave decision to share and seek help. Too many people try to internalise and go it alone, so well done for recognising and prioritizing your own mental health.

Regarding what to do next, it’s a case of ensuring good comms to your support network - your family and friends, your school and your squadron. Accept as much as support as your comfortable with - but recognise that this will change overtime.

If you are keen to use your squadron as an escape, ensure that your staff are aware of this - they will need to balance your needs with those of the squadron - it shouldnt mean a demotion, but could mean bringing somebody in alongside you, better support from your JNCOs, or just tweaking what you do on squadron to ensure it remains an escape for you, rather than a burden of rank.

If your sqn has a padre, utilise their skills, knowledge, experience and counsel. If it doesn’t, ask your OC to borrow the Wg Padre or a neighbouring sqns one. They are surprisingly helpful even if your not fully paid up follower of faith.

For school, let your Head of Sixth/Tutor or Pastoral worker know. They should also be able to ensure you get support through school channels. They wont be able to stop the relentless toil of A levels, but there are ways to support you.

There are also a number of helplines available for when its 4am and you’re unable to sleep because of everything that’s going on. Dont be afraid to pick up the phone, send a text or an email - sometimes chatting it through to somebody outside your regular support network helps bring clarity which your normal network cannot.

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You don’t say if you are intending to apply to stay over 18 as a cadet? This is a crucial, as if you are then you will need to see if HQAC will give any concessions on timeframes for things. Also what your intentions are post 18 education.

I would concur with approaching the padre. They will be non-judgemental and detached from all the other people you could speak to who will have an agenda. Also someone like MacMillan would have people you can speak to, who deal with people in the same situation all the time.

However if I were in your position, the ATC would be getting the heave ho.

@Batfink has fairly comprehensively covered you.

Having used the squadron as a form of escapism myself in the past, there is great value to staying involved if you feel able - but the additional responsibility that you feel may prevent you from making best use of it.

I would be very understanding of any cadet who came to me to explain that they can’t give 100% and might not be in as regularly as before and I wouldn’t look to demote over circumstances outside of someone’s control…

There are many ways in which an NCO IC can be utilised to fit around an array of factors so be honest about how much time and attention you can offer to the role and the squadron in general and hold an open-minded conversation with your squadron staff.

However, I proffer that there would be no shame if you preferred to take a more symbolic step back and request a step down in rank if you felt that would remove some of the additional pressure that you feel.