This paper explores views on the potential introduction of post-deployment screening for mental ill health in the UK Armed Forces.
Background This study aimed to examine currently serving United Kingdom (UK) military Medical and Welfare Officers views on the potential introduction of post-deployment screening for mental ill health. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 Medical and Welfare Officers. Interview transcripts were analysed using data-driven thematic analysis. Results Four themes were identified: positive views of screening; reliability of responses; impact on workload; and suggestions for implementation. Interviewees viewed the introduction of screening post-deployment as likely to increase awareness of mental health problems whilst also reporting that service personnel were likely to conceal their true mental health status by providing misleading responses to any screening tool. Concern over reliability of responses may provide one explanation for the reluctance of service personnel to seek help for problems, as they could feel they will not be taken seriously. Welfare Officers felt they would not have the knowledge or experience to respond to help-seeking. Although participants were concerned about potential impact on their personal workload, they indicated a desire to positively engage with the screening programme if research showed it was an effective tool to improve mental health care. Conclusions Welfare and healthcare providers are well disposed towards a screening programme for mental health but highlight a few concerns in its implementation. In particular Welfare Officers appear to require more training in how to respond to mental ill health. Concerns about available funding and resources to respond to increased workload will need to be addressed should post-deployment screening for mental health be introduced in the UK military.
Bull, S., Thandi, G., Keeling, M. et al., 2015. Medical and Welfare Officers beliefs about post-deployment screening for mental health disorders in the UK Armed Forces: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health 15, 338. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1695-4.