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Military personnel operate within the relatively closed environment of the Armed Forces (AF), which has a distinct culture that is broadly separate from the rest of society (Bergman et al., 2014). They are required to carry out duties that may lead to them being injured or killed and, often, the decision about whether to risk one’s life is not in the hands of the individual whose life is being risked. The social bonds between military personnel and their colleagues and their families, and with wider society, are worthy of some scrutiny. There is plenty of evidence that slightly less than 200,000 UK regular and reserve personnel are able to carry out the most arduous and dangerous of duties at least in part because of the close-knit and, in the main, supportive social networks that are characteristic of the AF.
The principles of the Armed Forces Covenant state that Armed Forces Veterans should be at no disadvantage resulting from their service compared with a general adult population. However, despite being at increased risk of experiencing common mental health difficulties, evidence indicates that 82% of Armed Forces Veterans receive no treatment, compared with 63% of the general adult population.
To gain a better appreciation of factors that inform the type of adaptations to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions for depression and mainstream service promotion materials to enhance acceptability for Armed Forces Veterans.
This is a qualitative study employing a focus group of 12 participants to examine the main impacts of depression on Armed Forces Veterans alongside attitudes towards terminology and visual imagery. Thematic analysis was used to identify themes and sub-themes with rigour established through two researchers independently developing thematic maps to inform a final agreed thematic map.
A behavioural activation intervention supporting re-engagement with activities to overcome depression had good levels of acceptability when adapted to reflect an Armed Forces culture. Preferences regarding terminology commonly used within CBT adapted for Armed Forces Veterans were identified. Concerns were expressed with respect to using imagery that emphasized physical rather than mental health difficulties.
There is the need to consider the Armed Forces community as a specific institutional culture when developing CBT approaches with potential to enhance engagement, completion and recovery rates. Results have potential to inform the practice of CBT with Armed Forces Veterans and future research.
Little is known about the prevalence of mental health outcomes in UK personnel at the end of the British involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
We examined the prevalence of mental disorders and alcohol misuse, whether this differed between serving and ex-serving regular personnel and by deployment status.
This is the third phase of a military cohort study (2014–2016; n = 8093). The sample was based on participants from previous phases (2004–2006 and 2007–2009) and a new randomly selected sample of those who had joined the UK armed forces since 2009.
The prevalence was 6.2% for probable post-traumatic stress disorder, 21.9% for common mental disorders and 10.0% for alcohol misuse. Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and a combat role during deployment were associated with significantly worse mental health outcomes and alcohol misuse in ex-serving regular personnel but not in currently serving regular personnel.
The findings highlight an increasing prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and a lowering prevalence of alcohol misuse compared with our previous findings and stresses the importance of continued surveillance during service and beyond.
Declaration of interest:
All authors are based at King's College London which, for the purpose of this study and other military-related studies, receives funding from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). S.A.M.S., M.J., L.H., D.P., S.M. and R.J.R. salaries were totally or partially paid by the UK MoD. The UK MoD provides support to the Academic Department of Military Mental Health, and the salaries of N.J., N.G. and N.T.F. are covered totally or partly by this contribution. D.Mu. is employed by Combat Stress, a national UK charity that provides clinical mental health services to veterans. D.MacM. is the lead consultant for an NHS Veteran Mental Health Service. N.G. is the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lead for Military and Veterans’ Health, a trustee of Walking with the Wounded, and an independent director at the Forces in Mind Trust; however, he was not directed by these organisations in any way in relation to his contribution to this paper. N.J. is a full-time member of the armed forces seconded to King's College London. N.T.F. reports grants from the US Department of Defense and the UK MoD, is a trustee (unpaid) of The Warrior Programme and an independent advisor to the Independent Group Advising on the Release of Data (IGARD). S.W. is a trustee (unpaid) of Combat Stress and Honorary Civilian Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry for the British Army (unpaid). S.W. is affiliated to the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King's College London in partnership with Public Health England, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and Newcastle University. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR, the Department of Health, Public Health England or the UK MoD.
Many people confront potentially morally injurious experiences (PMIEs) in the course of their work which can violate deeply held moral values or beliefs, putting them at risk for psychological difficulties (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, etc.).
We aimed to assess the effect of moral injury on mental health outcomes.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between work-related PMIEs and mental health disorders. Studies were independently assessed for methodological quality and potential moderator variables, including participant age, gender and PMIE factors, were also examined.
Thirteen studies were included, representing 6373 participants. PMIEs accounted for 9.4% of the variance in PTSD, 5.2% of the variance in depression and 2.0% of the variance in suicidality. PMIEs were associated with more symptoms of anxiety and behavioural problems (e.g. hostility), although this relationship was not consistently significant. Moderator analyses indicated that methodological factors (e.g. PMIE measurement tool), demographic characteristics and PMIE variables (e.g. military v. non-military context) did not affect the association between a PMIE and mental health outcomes.
Most studies examined occupational PMIEs in military samples and additional studies investigating the effect of PMIEs on civilians are needed. Given the limited number of high-quality studies available, only tentative conclusions about the association between exposure to PMIEs and mental health disorders can be made.
Mental health support in Sierra Leone is sparse, and qualitative research into the feasibility of implementing psychological interventions is equally underdeveloped. Following the 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust were commissioned to develop a psychological intervention that UK clinicians could train national staff with minimal psychological experience to deliver to their peers. Following the completion of the stepped care, group-based cognitive–behavioural therapy intervention, qualitative interviews were conducted with the national team to identify key barriers and enablers to implementation of and engagement with this intervention. This article describes the key themes that came out of those interviews, and discusses the implications of these findings for future clinical teams.
The mental health of military veterans has been, and continues to be, a topic of heated political and journalistic debate. There is a well-documented impact of conflict upon the mental health of service personnel, and most nations have aimed to provide effective care for individuals who have fought for their country. However, as the three thematic papers in this issue demonstrate, the realities of service-related mental health are rather more complex than they initially appear.
Risk factors for poor mental health among UK veterans include demonstrating symptoms while in service, being unmarried, holding lower rank, experiencing childhood adversity and having a combat role; however, deploy ment to a combat zone does not appear to be associated with mental health outcomes. While presentation of late-onset, post-service difficulties may explain some of the difference between veterans and those in service, delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appears to be partly explained by prior subthreshold PTSD, as well as other mental health difficulties. In the longer term, veterans do not appear to suffer worse mental health than equivalent civilians. This overall lack of difference, despite increased mental health difficulties in those who have recently left, suggests that veterans are not at risk of worse mental health and/or that poor mental health is a cause, rather than a consequence, of leaving service.
To identify factors that affected well-being among British embassy staff based in Japan after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.
In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 36 members of staff 8 to 9 months after the earthquake.
Participants described their crisis work as stressful, exciting, and something of which they were proud. Aside from disaster-specific stressors, factors identified as stressful included unclear roles, handing over work to new personnel, being assigned to office-based work, feeling that work was not immediately beneficial to the public, not taking good-quality breaks, and difficulties with relatives. The radiation risk provoked mixed feelings, with most participants being reassured by contact with senior scientists.
Interventions to safeguard the well-being of personnel during crisis work must consider the impact of a broad range of stressors.(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1-7)
Research of military personnel who deployed to the conflicts in Iraq or
Afghanistan has suggested that there are differences in mental health
outcomes between UK and US military personnel.
To compare the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
hazardous alcohol consumption, aggressive behaviour and multiple physical
symptoms in US and UK military personnel deployed to Iraq.
Data were from one US (n = 1560) and one UK
(n = 313) study of post-deployment military health of
army personnel who had deployed to Iraq during 2007–2008. Analyses were
stratified by high- and low-combat exposure.
Significant differences in combat exposure and sociodemographics were
observed between US and UK personnel; controlling for these variables
accounted for the difference in prevalence of PTSD, but not in the total
symptom level scores. Levels of hazardous alcohol consumption (low-combat
exposure: odds ratio (OR) = 0.13, 95% CI 0.07–0.21; high-combat exposure:
OR = 0.23, 95% CI 0.14–0.39) and aggression (low-combat exposure: OR =
0.36, 95% CI 0.19–0.68) were significantly lower in US compared with UK
personnel. There was no difference in multiple physical symptoms.
Differences in self-reported combat exposures explain most of the
differences in reported prevalence of PTSD. Adjusting for self-reported
combat exposures and sociodemographics did not explain differences in
hazardous alcohol consumption or aggression.
Most accounts of deployment mental health in UK armed forces personnel
rely on retrospective assessments.
We present data relating to the burden of mental ill health and the
effect of support measures including operational, family, welfare and
medical support obtained on two occasions some 18 months apart.
A total of 2794 personnel completed a survey while deployed to
Afghanistan; 1363 in 2011 and 1431 in 2010. Their responses were compared
The prevalence of self-report mental health disorder was low and not
significantly different between the surveys; the rates of probable
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were 2.8% in 2010 and 1.8% in 2011;
for common mental health disorders the rates were 17.0% and 16.0%
respectively. Remembering receiving predeployment psychoeducation,
perceptions of good leadership and good family support were all
significantly associated with better mental health. Seeking support from
non-medical sources and reporting sick for medical reasons were both
significantly associated with poorer mental health.
Over a period of 18 months, deployment mental health symptoms in UK armed
forces personnel were fewer than those obtained from a military
population sample despite continuing deployment in a high-threat context
and were associated with perceptions of support.
To examine the use of vitamin D supplements during infancy among the participants in an international infant feeding trial.
Information about vitamin D supplementation was collected through a validated FFQ at the age of 2 weeks and monthly between the ages of 1 month and 6 months.
Infants (n 2159) with a biological family member affected by type 1 diabetes and with increased human leucocyte antigen-conferred susceptibility to type 1 diabetes from twelve European countries, the USA, Canada and Australia.
Daily use of vitamin D supplements was common during the first 6 months of life in Northern and Central Europe (>80 % of the infants), with somewhat lower rates observed in Southern Europe (>60 %). In Canada, vitamin D supplementation was more common among exclusively breast-fed than other infants (e.g. 71 % v. 44 % at 6 months of age). Less than 2 % of infants in the USA and Australia received any vitamin D supplementation. Higher gestational age, older maternal age and longer maternal education were study-wide associated with greater use of vitamin D supplements.
Most of the infants received vitamin D supplements during the first 6 months of life in the European countries, whereas in Canada only half and in the USA and Australia very few were given supplementation.
Background: Behavioural Activation (BA) is an evidence-based psychological treatment for depression based on behavioural theory. However, in common with other talking therapies, there is limited evidence about occupational factors related to treatment. This is an important gap in the research given the emphasis placed on employment considerations in recent service initiatives. Aim: A service evaluation to investigate the clinical and fitness to work outcomes of a group BA programme for serving military personnel. Method: 46 patients experiencing moderate to severe depression attended a 12-session Military Behavioural Activation and Rehabilitation Course (MBARC). The primary outcomes were the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a self-report measure of depression and the patient's medical employability category. Results: Clinical and statistically significant changes were found on the PHQ-9 between pre-course and 3-month follow-up. Pretreatment 3 patients (6.5%) were psychologically fit to deploy on full operational duties in their primary role; this increased to 25 (56.8%) and 29 (65.9%) at 3 and 6-months respectively. Conclusion: Preliminary findings suggest that MBARC is a clinically and occupationally effective treatment for depression in military personnel. Further research is required to identify if BA delivered in a group setting would be effective in non-military settings and whether treatment benefits are maintained in the longer term.
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a meltdown at the
Fukushima nuclear power plant.
To quantify emotional responses among British nationals in Japan and to
assess whether perceptions about the incident or accessing information
about it were associated with responses.
A total of 284 participants randomly selected from official records
completed a survey that included instruments to measure emotional
In total, 16% met the criteria for distress, 29.7% reported high anxiety
relating to the incident and 30.4% reported high anger. Perceptions that
strongly predicted these outcomes included feeling uncertain, being
unable to rule out harmful exposure, and believing that exposure would
have severe or hidden health effects or be difficult to detect. Using
information sources was associated with higher emotional outcome,
particularly for sources perceived to have low credibility.
Reducing uncertainty and improving the credibility of information is
essential in reducing the psychological impact of radiological
Most studies of the mental health of UK armed forces focus on
retrospective accounts of deployment and few sample personnel while they
This study reports the results of a survey of deployed personnel,
examining the perceived impact of events at home and military support for
the family on current mental health during the deployment.
Surveys were conducted with 2042 British forces personnel serving in Iraq
and Afghanistan. Prevalence of common mental disorders was assessed with
the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) was assessed with the PTSD Checklist – Civilian
The prevalence of common mental disorders was 17.8% and of probable PTSD
was 2.8%. Perceived home difficulties significantly influenced the mental
health of deployed personnel; the greater the perception of negative
events in the home environment, the greater the reporting of adverse
mental health effects. This finding was independent of combat exposure
and was only partially mitigated by being well led and reporting
subjectively good unit cohesion; however, the effect of the totality of
home-front events was not improved by the latter. Poor perceived military
support for the family had a detrimental impact on deployment mental
The armed forces offer many support services to the partners and families
of deployed personnel and ensuring that the efforts being made on their
behalf are well communicated might improve the mental health of deployed
The Defence Mental Health Services (DMHS) provide an occupationally focused service for the UK armed forces when deployed and when at home. Although much of the work is similar to that carried out by National Health Service community mental health teams, there are many unique aspects to working with the military. Although carrying out operational duties is a key function of the armed forces, the majority of cases managed by the DMHS are not related to traumatic exposures; instead, adjustment, mood and substance use disorders form the bulk of the case work. However, DMHS personnel carry out a considerable amount of psychological education and command liaison functions to support the concept that the psychological welfare of troops is primarily a chain of command responsibility. This article outlines the structure and function of the DMHS and its approach to risk management.
Most research on the mental health of UK armed forces personnel has been conducted either before or after deployment; there is scant evidence concerning personnel while they are on deployment.
To assess the mental health of UK armed forces personnel deployed in Iraq and identify gaps in the provision of support on operations.
Personnel completed a questionnaire about their deployment experiences and health status. Primary outcomes were psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire–12, GHQ–12), symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and self-rating of overall health.
Of 611 participants, 20.5% scored above the cut-off on the GHQ–12 and 3.4% scored as having probable PTSD. Higher risk of psychological distress was associated with younger age, female gender, weaker unit cohesion, poorer perceived leadership and non-receipt of a pre-deployment stress brief. Perceived threat to life, poorer perceived leadership and non-receipt of a stress brief were risk factors for symptoms of PTSD. Better self-rated overall health was associated with being a commissioned officer, stronger unit cohesion and having taken a period of rest and recuperation. Personnel who reported sick for any reason during deployment were more likely to report psychological symptoms. Around 11% reported currently being interested in receiving help for a psychological problem.
In an established operational theatre the prevalence of common psychopathology was similar to rates found in non-deployed military samples. However, there remains scope for further improving in-theatre support mechanisms, raising awareness of the link between reporting sick and mental health and ensuring implementation of current policy to deliver pre-deployment stress briefs.
For armed forces personnel, data on help-seeking behaviour and receipt of treatment for mental disorders are important for both research and policy.
To examine mental healthcare service use and receipt of treatment in a sample of the UK military.
Participants were drawn from an existing UK military health cohort. The sample was stratified by reserve status and by participation in the main war-fighting period of the Iraq War. Participants completed a telephone-based structured diagnostic interview comprising the Patient Health Questionnaire and Primary Care Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Screen (PC–PTSD), and a series of questions about service utilisation and treatment receipt.
Only 23% of those with common mental disorders and still serving in the military were receiving any form of medical professional help. Non-medical sources of help such as chaplains were more widely used. Among regular personnel in receipt of professional help, most were seen in primary care (79%) and the most common treatment was medication or counselling/psychotherapy. Few regular personnel were receiving cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT). These findings are comparable with those reported for the general population.
In the UK armed forces, the majority of those with mental disorders are not currently seeking medical help for their symptoms. Further work to understand barriers to care is important and timely given that this is a group at risk of occupational psychiatric injury.
This chapter reviews the evidence for psychological and pharmacological approaches to treating people with adverse psychological reactions after disaster. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most commonly identified, and the disorder is characterized by three clusters of symptoms, including reexperiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal. Rates of PTSD are high in the initial months after a disaster, but most become noncases in the subsequent months. Short-term interventions are primarily designed to promote safety, assist coping, and stabilize the individual and their environment. Psychological debriefing has been the model approach to reducing the risk for chronic PTSD after disasters. The chapter also reviews the available evidence on treating posttraumatic disorders that can arise in the intermediate phase after a disaster. The World Wide Web is providing some promising avenues to provide cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) to people who cannot access formal mental health services.