What happens to the mental health of United Kingdom personnel when they return home from Afghanistan?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology


Introduction: The rates of mental illness in United Kingdom military personnel have largely been stable since operations began in Iraq in 2003. However data is often gathered at one time point so cannot measure change over time and the one longitudinal study (Fear et al., 2010) which has examined this issue found a significant increase in PTSD symptoms over time. This highlighted the need for measurement of poor mental health symptomatology at more than one time point. The current research aimed to: a.compare rates of mental ill health among military personnel upon completion of deployment and at follow up; and b. to identify any factors associated with maladjustment. Method: 2580 personnel completed the baseline questionnaire and 586 consented to follow up. 296 provided follow up questionnaire responses, via internet,post, or site visit. Two follow up groups were compared; those assessed between three weeks to four months post homecoming; and those assessed between four to eight months post homecoming. Results: Symptoms of poor mental health increased from
baseline to follow up, with no difference between follow up groups. There was a
significant rise in PTSD symptomatology and the prevalence of functional impairment.
Greater unit cohesion, leadership satisfaction and positive family relationships were predictive of better mental health. Stigmatising beliefs regarding seeking mental health treatment were associated with poor mental health. Conclusions: Bolstering modifiable areas of support, such as peer and family relationships, may help to buffer adverse deployment effects. Delivering the anti-stigma message to family, peers and commanders may help increase awareness of, and reduce stigma towards, help seeking for mental health difficulties. Continued follow up research is needed to monitor if symptoms of poor mental health continue to rise and reach clinical significance.
Date of AwardSept 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPatrick Smith (Supervisor)

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