A consultative Focus Group for UK ex-Service personnel and their families with lived experience of mental health issues took place on Tuesday 27th September in Central London…

The Focus Group’s purpose was to help shape Forces in Mind Trust’s (FiMT) future research into the mental health-related needs amongst the ex-Service community.

Participants were asked to express their views on the research priorities, focus and desired outcomes of FiMT’s Mental Health Research Programme (MHRP), a 5-year multi-million pound programme with an annual disbursement of £1 million that aims to encourage high-quality research in the field of veterans’ and their families’ mental health.

The event, which allowed an open forum for input from the wider veteran community, was run by Dr Jane Rowley, a previous Specialist FiMT Fellow on the Clore Social Leadership Programme (2015), and was facilitated by Harry Palmer, MHRP Coordinator.

The Focus Group created a space for frank discussion on topics such as access to care, family support and stigmatization, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. These topic discussions were supported by group tasks to identify the research priority areas that participants felt were most important and as such should be included in the MHRP. The event concluded with each participant highlighting what they believed to be the single most important research priority for the next 12 months.

Focus Group feedback will now be used to help inform the MHRP’s first annual research priority review, which is due to take place in October, one year after the Programme was formally launched. The participant responses further enrich the findings of an online survey which was run earlier this year where over 100 individuals from across academia, service delivery, and the ex-Service Community who had an interest in this field, provided views on what the MHRP’s research priorities should be in the coming year.

The MHRP itself is run by FiMT in collaboration with the Centre for Mental Health and the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, part of King’s College London. For more information on the Programme, please visit http://www.fim-trust.org/mental-health/research-programme

The Forces in Mind Trust, established in 2012 to help ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful transition back to civilian life, has as one of its founding priorities the aim ‘to promote better mental health and well-being’ and ‘to build organisations’ capacity to deliver evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation’.

Since 2012, FiMT has worked hard to develop an understanding of the mental health environment, and to identify where the Trust can best deploy its finite resources to maximum effect, ultimately to help inform and influence policy makers and service deliverers in order to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to lead more successful and fulfilling civilian lives.

Dr Jane Rowley said: “The contributions were helpful and the lived experiences discussions were revealing. I hope that these consultations will go a long way to informing the MHRP priorities over the next twelve months. I very much appreciated the opportunity to facilitate a focus group with people who have lived experience of Mental Health issues and are dedicated to providing insight into the MHRP/FiMT research priorities review. It is refreshing to work with organisations like FiMT that are dedicated to consulting all stakeholders and developing a focused evidence base for ex-Service personnel.”