A grant of £157,384 has been awarded to King’s College London (KCL), in partnership with the University of Liverpool, to evaluate whether the mental health and treatment needs of UK veterans, and their treatment outcomes, differ from those of the general population…

Although some broad brush studies have been undertaken in this field, there have been no formal comparisons that take into account the various contributing factors that can be important in determining someone’s mental health, such as whether they are in employment, or their socio-economic status.

In terms of treatment, the majority of veterans with mild to moderate mental health problems, such as non-severe post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and depression, are likely to receive psychological treatment in generic NHS ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) services if they seek care in England (which is where IAPT operates).

However, no existing data demonstrates whether generic treatments, such as those offered by IAPT, are as effective for veterans as for the general population (i.e. non-veterans).

This study seeks to address the evidence gap by:

  • Directly comparing data on the mental health of the general population with data on the mental health of veterans and exploring some of the different characteristics of these groups which might cause their mental health to be different
  • Examining nationally collected data from NHS IAPT services and comparing the outcomes of veterans with non-veterans

The 18-month project will be conducted by two Joint Principal Investigators, Dr Laura Goodwin, Lecturer in Epidemiology in the Addictions Research Group (Psychological Sciences) at the University of Liverpool and Visiting Lecturer at KCL, and Dr Deirdre MacManus, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at KCL.

Dr Laura Goodwin said: “We are really excited to start this important research project which has been funded by the Forces in Mind Trust. This study will provide the first representative data on the mental health needs of recent ex-Serving personnel in the UK compared to the general population, and a better understanding of the nature of these needs in relation to both severity and comorbidity with other mental health problems.”

Dr Deirdre MacManus said: “Forces in Mind Trust has provided us with the opportunity to compare, for the first time, the clinical presentations and treatment outcomes of veterans who access NHS IAPT services with non-veterans. The findings will make an important contribution to the evidence base for the psychological treatment of mental disorder among veterans and guide mental health service development for veterans.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “There is a significant gap in terms of formal comparisons that identify the differences, if indeed there are any, in the mental health and treatment needs of veterans compared to the general population, and no evidence exists as to how effective generic NHS treatment outcomes are for those who have served in the Armed Forces.

"This study will provide an important insight into both of these areas, specifically how veterans differ from non-veterans in terms of their access to and benefit from IAPT services, which fits with the Covenant principle of trying to ensure no disadvantage to those who have served.

"The findings from this study will be of particular interest to NHS England and to the service deliverers who plan and provide for the mental health needs of veterans by helping them to identify suitable and timely treatments to aid ex-Service personnel suffering from mental health issues in their civilian life.”