Mental health of young ex-soldiers - report published

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by danoneill, Aug 8, 2008.

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  1. Last year, I posted here to tell people about a research project that was just kicking off
    (see "Mental health of young ex-soldiers - request for help" at )

    Thanks again to all those who either participated, or sent supportive comments.

    The project is now finished and the report requested by the funders (the Indigo Trust) published.
    You can access copies of the press release and report via the following links:-
    Press release
    report - "Welfare and warfare - an uneasy mix" at

    I'll just add that despite what the press release says, we explicitly do not claim that the findings represent general attitudes throughout the services (its the wrong type of study for that), but they do represent the views of those who participated.

    Our hope is that it will help to keep alive interest in some of the issues raised, to the benefit of current and former service personnel.

    Any comments or constructive criticism welcome (remembering that I'm a delicate civvie!)


    Dan O'Neill
    Univ of Essex
  2. Second link is duff.
  3. Welfare and warfare: an uneasy mix
    Colchester Campus

    Young soldiers and service personnel facing multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan need greater mental health support, a study by the University of Essex has concluded.

    Researchers from the Department of Health and Human Sciences interviewed 23 ex-service personnel to develop an in-depth insight into the problems and emotional distress associated with military life.

    The study’s authors highlight the need for culture change in the military and the further development of support services and training to help address the unmet mental health need they identified among the ex-servicemen and women.

    The researchers also found ex-service personnel experienced significant problems including social isolation and difficulties with housing, employment and relationships after discharge from the military. They recommend improved access to emotional and psychological support to facilitate the transition from military to civilian life and to tackle long-term mental health problems.

    The report ‘Welfare and warfare…an uneasy mix’ by Professor Gill Green, Dan O’Neill and Steven Walker is published online today at:

    Funded by the Indigo Trust, the team set out to find the views of ex-service personnel themselves about their mental health needs and the accessibility and helpfulness of the support available. In addition to former soldiers who joined the army between the ages of 16 and 26, and one former sailor, they interviewed family members and welfare staff representatives from organisations supporting ex-military personnel.

    They found many young soldiers come from chaotic and disadvantaged backgrounds and are vulnerable to emotional and mental health problems as they make the transition to adulthood in a military environment. Stress factors included combat stress, separation from family, and bullying. However, despite some reporting bullying, those ex-soldiers who had enlisted more recently spoke positively of their experiences in basic training, which the authors felt may indicate that attitudes and practice were changing.

    Professor Green said: ‘It’s difficult for the military to organise the waging of warfare at the same time as catering for the welfare of vulnerable young service men and women.

    ‘While there was general consensus that the best way to support people experiencing emotional distress was to get them to talk about their feelings, there was clearly a stigma associated with poor mental health and a prevalence of macho attitudes which prevented many from admitting to emotional problems.’

    The tendency neither to recognise, nor disclose emotional distress, could result in behaviour such as going absent without leave (AWOL), or excessive use of alcohol or drugs, the authors found.

    The researchers made seven recommendations to address the mental health issues identified by their interviewees:

    ● Cultural change to normalise and de-stigmatise emotional distress
    ● Mandatory training for service personnel in developing strategies to cope with managing stress
    ● Availability of more trained counsellors and greater emphasis on ‘decompression’ following deployments
    ● A more systematic approach to emotional distress including training for commanders
    ● Greater confidentiality surrounding mental health problems
    ● Zero tolerance for bullying, and more training for officers and NCOs in this area
    ●Improved access to mental health support for ex-service personnel.
  4. Dan, have you thought of sending this to RBL, I think this could be useful to them.

    Edited to add
    MODS can you help??

    I have found this particularly intresting also as I am studying social sciences. How much change can affect people and affect thier personal identity from circumstancial and psychological differences.
  5. cheers - link fixed
  6. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator


    I don't disagree with any of your bullet points and I welcome any study that suggests soldiers require more resources from the mental health arena.

    However I do have a question - is a group of 23 enough of a sample size for you to make the claims/findings that you do? Is it statistically relevent?

    23 seems pretty light to me.
  7. Hi = I should have mentioned this in the original post, but hard copies have gone to all the (25+) organisations that helped out, including RBL, SSAFA etc, so I hope they will find something useful in it

  8. Dan - no thank you! a little impact can make lot of difference. Cheapseats - I think you are being a bit harsh on the fella at least he's doing his bit, and it still highlights the problems that still need to be addressed within HMF community. The least the army can do is rehab a soldier mentally and physically to his/hers full optimum - after all he/she has has given his/her all.

    I went to Sierra Leone twice and had no decompression - I actually felt very isolated and angry on return, and it was out the norm within my mellow character, but I noticed it and addressed it, however some soldiers in my position arent so fortunate.
  9. Hi - as you suggest, 23 is much too small a sample size to make strong claims about what might be happening in general, but we didnt set out to do a study to produce statistically generalisable findings - there is already a fair amount of research of that type that has been done. Instead, we wanted to get detailed accounts from individuals who had been affected in one way or another, and to look at the issues raised by their cases. For example, some of the people who took part clearly believed that there is a lack of basic confidentiality in the system that puts people off disclosing that they are having problems coping. Whether it is 'true' or not that there is no confidentiality, the perception exists, and conceivably it is something that could be addressed by the services.
    We are so used to being bombarded by stats (which of course are never misleading!) that it can take a while to get our heads around different approaches in research, and how they can be used. Sorry to be so wordy, but hey, I'm an academic :)
  10. I initially thought 23 was a small number. Having read the report though, it's very good.
  11. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    Look, I can say, in my opinion, that we need more mental health care for returning troops. I am in complete agreement with that statement.

    "So what?", say the powers that be. "Prove its necessity".

    Opinion matters not a lot these days. If you want to make an impact, you need to be able to show that there is statistical weight and merit in your hypothesis. That is why I asked the question of sample size.

    I have a friend currently doing a study where, after discussion with various parties, for her results to gain merit, authority and to get anyone to listen to the them, requires a sample size of not less than 200. That's just for an MSc.

    Dan - you say

    What is some? 3? 4? Less than 20%? In these days of ever shrinking budget, you don't try and fix "preceptions" of problems; you fix problems. There is a problem with confidentiality - is the real finding you want here. Now, can you prove it? Or are you simply using too small a sample size for it to be anything other than an opinion? I sadly think the latter.

    I really don't mean to get at you. This is good work. But are you going to able to continue it and really make it worthwhile?
  12. Read the report, pages 20 and 21. Appears to be 5 of those interviewed out of 23. Do the math.

    I think the sentiments expressed by those interviewed throughout the report are very similar to my time. I do think, however, the report is a little too simplistic to make an impact in some quarters. An interesting report proving to me nothing has really changed over the years.
  13. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    Read the report, pages 20 and 21. Appears to be 5 of those interviewed out of 23. Do the math.[/quote]

    I did but my point was that the method of presentation gave me allowance to make any statement I wanted about the definition of "some". "Some" is not an empirical measure, as far as I am concerned.

    On page 20-21, there are six comments made from four interviewees. How do you get five?

    Do the math? Yeh right :D
  14. This is what is currently referred to as "research with" rather than "research about" it doesn't have to be statistically significant. The idea is that by engaging fully with the participants a better qualitative understanding will exist of the problems, it will probably lead to a wider more statistically significant study of the issues it raises. Some very good qualitative studies have been carried out with just one participant: Wataru Takei's study of the development of a deaf child in learning to sign led to plenty of other work, despite appearing initially naive and insignificant, he raised important questions.

    It's not a new concept in social research, just one that most people don't normally get to see, academics and interested parties can take what they want from the study, form hypothesis and test them. It's interesting and serves to raise issues not solve them.