Project to improve veteran mental health provision

A project aimed at improving mental health support for female military veterans has been launched this week, with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) carrying out research that will inform changes in NHS provision.

The proportion of women in the Armed Forces is currently 11%, and is set to rise to 13% by 2028. Around a quarter of female military veterans experience mental health problems, which is a higher proportion than both their male counterparts and non-military women.

Despite this, only around 6% of female military veterans access NHS Veteran Mental Health Services, and research by ARU’s Veterans and Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI), co-produced with female military veterans, and in partnership with the charity Salute Her, and Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, aims to discover the reasons for this.

The £133,000 research project aims to speak with 48 woman veterans, including some who have not used mental health services, as well as mental health professionals, to better understand the challenges in providing support for ex-servicewomen and co-produce guidance to enable the NHS to tailor services towards them.

The research project begins this week and is expected to take 18 months. It has been funded by a prestigious National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) grant.

Lead researcher, Dr Lauren Godier-McBard of the VFI at ARU, said:

“The proportion of women accessing NHS Veteran Mental Health Services is currently about half of what we might expect given the demographic of women in the Armed Forces.

“This demographic is growing, and it is vitally important that we understand their needs. By not accessing specialist services, women may not receive the NHS priority treatment available to veterans with mental health conditions that occurred as a result of their service. Waiting longer for treatment and not accessing tailored services could exacerbate these mental health issues.

“Our project will co-produce new guidance on how we can best meet the needs of ex-servicewomen, as the number of female Armed Forces personnel continues to grow.”

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