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The journey to professional mental health support: a qualitative exploration of the barriers and facilitators impacting military veterans’ engagement with mental health treatment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700613
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean journal of psychotraumatology
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2020
Accepted/In press28 Nov 2019
E-pub ahead of print6 Jan 2020
Published6 Jan 2020


King's Authors


Background: It is often claimed that military veterans are reticent to seek help for mental disorders, even though delayed treatment may impair recovery and impact the wellbeing of those close to the veteran. Objective: This paper aims to explore the barriers and facilitators to accessing professional mental health support for three groups of veterans who met criteria for a probable mental health disorder and: (1) do not recognize a probable mental disorder; (2) recognize they are affected by a mental disorder but are not seeking professional support; or (3) are currently seeking professional mental health support. Method: Qualitative telephone interviews were conducted with 62 UK military veterans. Thematic analysis identified core themes along an illustrative journey towards professional mental health support. Results: Distinct barriers and facilitators to care were discussed by each group of veterans depicting changes as veterans moved towards accessing professional mental health support. In contrast to much of the literature, stigma was not a commonly reported barrier to care; instead care-seeking decisions centred on a perceived need for treatment, waiting until a crisis event occurred. Whilst the recognition of treatment need represented a pivotal moment, our data identified numerous key steps which had to be surmounted prior to care-seeking. Conclusion: As care-seeking decisions within this sample appeared to centre on a perceived need for treatment future efforts designed to encourage help-seeking in UK military veterans may be best spent targeting the early identification and management of mental health disorders to encourage veterans to seek support before reaching a crisis event.

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