Most studies of the mental health of UK armed forces focus on retrospective accounts of deployment and few sample personnel while they are deployed.
This study reports the results of a survey of deployed personnel, examining the perceived impact of events at home and military support for the family on current mental health during the deployment.
Surveys were conducted with 2042 British forces personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prevalence of common mental disorders was assessed with the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was assessed with the PTSD Checklist Civilian version (PCL-C).
The prevalence of common mental disorders was 17.8% and of probable PTSD was 2.8%. Perceived home difficulties significantly influenced the mental health of deployed personnel; the greater the perception of negative events in the home environment, the greater the reporting of adverse mental health effects. This finding was independent of combat exposure and was only partially mitigated by being well led and reporting subjectively good unit cohesion; however, the effect of the totality of home-front events was not improved by the latter. Poor perceived military support for the family had a detrimental impact on deployment mental health.
The armed forces offer many support services to the partners and families of deployed personnel and ensuring that the efforts being made on their behalf are well communicated might improve the mental health of deployed personnel.