Research signals new mental health app could help veterans

A new app developed by researchers at King’s College London has shown some promise as a useful, accessible way for veterans to monitor and manage their mental health.

The Mental Health Toolkit for Veterans, known as the MeT4VeT app, was developed to help ex-Service personnel overcome barriers which prevented them from seeking help for their mental health. It was designed to help veterans to define if their problems were mental health difficulties, recognise the need for help before reaching a crisis point and engage with support either through self-help tools on the app or by accessing formal treatment.

The feasibility trial was carried out with 50 male veterans to test the acceptability and useability of the app. A full report, from the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, has been published today.

The app was well received by the veterans that took part in the study, helping them to track their thoughts, feelings and behaviours relating to their mental health.

One app user said: “I think it is because everybody has a phone nowadays and it’s always handy because even at work if I’m getting a bit stressed or something I’ll just go onto it. I’ll go, “hold on a minute I’m a bit stressed, I’ve got the App there, open it up, right let’s have a little breathing exercise.” I just calm down, have a coffee.”

The researchers have recommended more extensive testing with other groups of veterans such as women and older veterans, and further research to fully understand the effectiveness of the app.

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

“From previous research, we know that ex-Service personnel can face barriers to help-seeking for mental health. We also know that they access services that are tailored to their needs, and where there is an understanding of the culture of the Armed Forces. So, we are pleased to see the approach taken in developing this accessible and usable app. It could be an important step forward in the management of mental health in the ex-Service community. It has the potential to play a significant role in enabling ex-Service personnel to have a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life after their service.”

Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health at KCMHR said

“All too often we find that poor mental health can prevent service leavers from having a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life. Many veterans may thus struggle with their relationships and with finding suitable employment because of mental health difficulties. Unfortunately, evidence also shows that reluctance to seek professional help is common with service leavers often preferring to manage mental health difficulties themselves.

“The Met4Vet app has shown promise as a way to help veterans self-manage mental health difficulties and find ways to access professional care, where needed, in a way that suits them. Whilst further research work is needed to prove the app is effective, I am optimistic that with further work Met4Vet has the potential to positively impact the lives of many service leavers and their families.”

You can download the report here.

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