Research focuses on understanding stigma

Research shows the importance of understanding why Service personnel do not seek support for mental ill-health, according to a new paper published in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps.* “There are significant numbers of serving and ex-serving personnel with PTSD who are not accessing services”, it notes.

While the majority of the UK Armed Forces do not experience mental ill-health, a small but significant minority do require specialist support. However they may not know where to seek the help they need, or feel there is ‘stigma’ related to mental health conditions, which affects their self-esteem and prevents them coming forward.

“Only 23 per cent of Veterans with mental health problems seek help and we know that the longer you go untreated, the greater the problems become. However, there is evidence that people deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking help earlier, which is positive,” says Dr. Dominic Murphy of Combat Stress.  “In many respects you are stronger if you are able to seek help. It does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you are weak.”

Combat Stress works to help reduce stigma by increasing awareness and understanding of Veterans’ mental health issues.  Its clinical programme with Veterans helps them realise they are not alone in experiencing these difficulties, come to terms and accept that is it not their 'fault' they experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after traumatic events. 

“There has been a tremendous change in the treatment and attitudes toward Veterans’ mental health,” says Peter Poole, Acting Chief Executive.  “But there is still a long way to go before we live in a society where those with mental injuries feel they can be open about the issues they face. We must do all we can to ensure that Veterans know where to find information and expert help for PTSD and their mental health.”

* Murphy D, et al.J R Army Med Corps2014;0:1–5. PTSD, stigma and barriers to help-seeking within the UK Armed Forces.