A grant of £158,999 has been awarded to King’s College London to conduct an 18-month feasibility study exploring the type of mental health problems UK veterans experience who actively access secondary mental health care, their pathway through treatment, the outcomes of the treatment they receive, and their socio-demographic profile…

The project will compare and contrast these findings with non-veterans (i.e. the general population) who access the same services, as well as UK veterans who access veteran-specific mental health care services.

Uniquely, the research will focus on secondary care which deals with more complex needs than primary care. The study will use the innovative Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) system, which provides authorised researchers with regulated, secure access to anonymised information extracted from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s electronic clinical records. For the first time, CRIS will be used to identify the specific mental health needs of veterans. Additional information will be provided by the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans, Combat Stress, on veterans accessing their specialist mental health care services.

Estimates of the UK veteran population range from three to five million. Research shows that a minority (between 4%-20%) may experience physical and mental health problems, some as a result of service, but the majority of those do not seek formal medical help. For those that do, this study will help fill the knowledge gap concerning the mental health issues with which they present, whether they opt for the NHS secondary health care system or veteran specific treatment, what happens to them once in either of these treatment systems and the outcomes of the treatment they receive, and looking at what differences (if any) there may be when contrasted with the general population (where possible).

The research project will be conducted by Dr Sharon Stevelink, Study Coordinator of the Clinical Interview Study, part of the Health and Well-being Study Programme at King’s College London.

Dr Sharon Stevelink said: “We are very excited to start this novel project investigating treatment pathways for veterans with complex mental health issues. The unique collaboration with Combat Stress enables us to provide a comprehensive picture of mental health care services accessed by the veteran community. We hope that the research will enable us to tailor the provision of mental health services for veterans reaching out for support to combat their mental health difficulty.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “There remains a significant dearth in evidence around the specific mental health needs, and treatment pathways and outcomes of UK ex-Service personnel accessing generic mental health secondary care services. The findings from this uniquely placed study will inform mental health care policy makers and service providers in both the statutory and non-statutory sectors to plan resources that will best serve and treat this vulnerable cohort for whom transition to civilian life may be particularly challenging.”