Help-seeking and receipt of treatment among UK service personnel

August, 2010

It is inevitable that among the UK service personnel returning from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq will be a number suffering from psychological injury. In view of the various costs, both financial and social, that are associated with mental disorders, it is a research priority to establish not only how many have developed such disorders, but also whether or not they are receiving any treatment, and if so, whether or not that treatment is appropriate. This study examines the use of mental healthcare services and receipt of treatment in a large sample of the UK military, including reservists and veterans.


For armed forces personnel, data on help-seeking behaviour and receipt of treatment for mental disorders are important for both research and policy. This study examines mental healthcare service use and receipt of treatment in a sample of the UK military. 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.

Full Reference

Help-seeking and receipt of treatment among UK service personnel; Amy C. Iversen, Lauren van Staden, Jamie Hacker Hughes, Tess Browne, Neil Greenberg, Matthew Hotopf, Roberto J. Rona, Simon Wessely, Graham Thornicroft and Nicola T. Fear; The British Journal of Psychiatry 2010 197: 149-155.

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