Mental Healthcare in the UK Armed Forces

SilverCloud joins the Ministry of Defence (MOD) at DSEI 2015 (Defence & Security Equipment International) in the medical innovation zone that will showcase among other things the latest developments in military mental healthcare. This will include a demonstration of the SilverCloud online psychological wellness resource the clinical teams at the MOD and SilverCloud Health worked closely together to develop.

The mental health and wellbeing of military personnel has received increasing attention in recent years, deservedly so given the involvement of the British Armed Forces in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no question that military personnel, especially those in combat roles, are a high-risk group and can be vulnerable to developing mental health difficulties.

 

Mental Health Problems Experienced by Military Personnel

military-police-1540317-638x425-1A recent study of 10,000 serving personnel (83% regulars; 27% reservists) found that common mental difficulties (such as depression and anxiety) and alcohol misuse were the most frequently reported among UK armed forces personnel1.  Alcohol misuse represents a significant and well-known health concern affecting up to one in five regular soldiers.

The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in UK military appears to be lower than expected when compared to their US counterparts. The prevalence of PTSD in UK personnel returning from Iraq has been estimated between 4–6%; in the US it is between 8–15%2. It is suggested that this is because UK Army recruits tend to be older and have shorter tours of duty.

 

Resilience in the UK armed forces

A recent paper examining resilience in the UK armed forces2 suggests that as well as access to high quality mental health services, good training, leadership and unit cohesion are key factors in resilience to mental health problems. Well known initiatives to help prevent post-deployment mental health problems, such as TLD (third location decompression) and TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) are also important.  

 

The Effectiveness of Services and where to next

In light of the increased focus on the mental health of the Armed Forces the Forces in Mind Trust commissioned a report3 to review the research evidence to date on the mental health of military personnel in the UK, with the aim of identifying the main gaps and recommending priorities for future research. One of the top research priorities identified in the report is to evaluate and determine the effectiveness of mental healthcare services including the outcomes of interventions.

The report also suggests that further research should be carried out into the use of evidence-based mental health interventions for military personnel military-patch-1452931-640x480-1such as online support, telemedicine, mobile phone support and self-management. The online solution developed for the MOD has helped to overcome the stigma of accessing wellbeing support resulting in a positive impact for many of its MOD users.

SilverCloud is a global provider of mental health and wellbeing programs, all evidence-based and researched to the highest standards.

For more information on SilverCloud or a demo - visit us in the medical innovation zone located in the North Hall at the exhibition.

 

References

1. Fear NT, Jones M,  Murphy D et al (2010). What are the consequences of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan on the mental health of the UK armed forces? A cohort study. The Lancet (2010) 375 (9728): 1783–1797.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20471076

 

2. MacManus D,Jones N, Wessely S, et al. The mental health of the UK Armed Forces in the 21st century: resilience in the face of adversity. J R Army Med Corps.2014;0:1 6. doi:10.1136/jramc-2013-000213. Available at: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kcmhr/publications/assetfiles/2014/resilience-paper.pdf

 

3. The mental health of serving and ex-serving personnel- A review of the evidence and perspectives of key stakeholders by FiMT and the Mental Health Foundation 2013-available at: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/the-mental-health-of-serving-and-ex-service-personnel.pdf?view=Standard