Funding awarded to examine treatment pathways for ex-service-personnel with co-occurring alcohol and common mental health disorders

A new FiMT-funded research project led by Dr Laura Goodwin from Lancaster University and Dr Patricia Irizar from the University of Manchester will investigate treatments for co-occurring Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) and Common Mental Disorders (CMD) among military personnel.The award of £148,000 will fund an 18-month project to understand and improve current treatments  for UK veterans with co-occurring AUD and CMD. The project involves a series of studies that will investigate current treatment pathways, barriers faced by veterans seeking support, and examples of best practice from service providers to develop recommendations and guidelines for care providers.

In the UK, research has shown that ex-service personnel have higher levels of AUD and CMD (such as depression and anxiety) than the general population, and are more likely to experience co-occurring problems. Specific mental health services are available to the veteran population, meaning treatment services differ to those available for the general population. However, veterans are more likely to delay seeking help. For these reasons, veterans with co-occurring problems often have poorer health outcomes.

This will be the first research project to examine experiences of treatments for co-occurring AUD and CMD in UK Military Veterans. The research team will evaluate the treatment pathways that are currently used and whether they are effective, and collect first-hand evidence from veterans and those who provide care to veterans, to understand their experiences and make progress towards better treatments for co-occurring AUD and CMD for ex-service personnel.

Tom McBarnet, Chief Executive (Acting) Forces in Mind Trust said,

“Whilst most veterans smoothly adapt to civilian life, ex-service personnel can face unique barriers to accessing effective treatment for mental health and alcohol problems. The interrelated nature of these issues can lead to complex treatment pathways and poorer health outcomes. Until now no research has examined the efficacy of treatment pathways for co-occurring AUD and CMD in UK military veterans. It is therefore great news that FiMT is able to fund the first research project to specifically investigate the experience of UK military veterans affected by this co-occurrence.”

Dr Laura Goodwin (Lancaster University), lead investigator, said,

“Current guidance for the treatment of co-occurring AUD and CMD suggests that care providers across alcohol and mental health services should work collaboratively. But service users and care providers have told us that this is often not followed in routine practice, with service users facing barriers to accessing services if they have a co-occurring problem. This work aims to provide evidence of how best to support veterans with co-occurring problems, to ensure best practice is followed.”

Dr Patricia Irizar (University of Manchester), co-lead investigator, said,

“Over 30,000 UK military veterans have a co-occurring AUD and CMD. Funding from FiMT will support this research to improve the mental and physical health of these veterans and benefit those who provide treatment services to veterans, through the development of clear recommendations and guidelines for best practice, to reduce barriers to accessing support.”

The project will be led by Lancaster University, in collaboration with academics and clinicians at the University of Manchester, King’s College London, and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Military Veterans’ Service.

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