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Mental health and psychological support in UK armed forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011

  • Norman Jones (a1), Paul Mitchell (a1), John Clack (a1), Mohammed Fertout (a1), Nicola T. Fear (a1), Simon Wessely (a1) and Neil Greenberg (a1)...

Most accounts of deployment mental health in UK armed forces personnel rely on retrospective assessments.


We present data relating to the burden of mental ill health and the effect of support measures including operational, family, welfare and medical support obtained on two occasions some 18 months apart.


A total of 2794 personnel completed a survey while deployed to Afghanistan; 1363 in 2011 and 1431 in 2010. Their responses were compared and contrasted.


The prevalence of self-report mental health disorder was low and not significantly different between the surveys; the rates of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were 2.8% in 2010 and 1.8% in 2011; for common mental health disorders the rates were 17.0% and 16.0% respectively. Remembering receiving predeployment psychoeducation, perceptions of good leadership and good family support were all significantly associated with better mental health. Seeking support from non-medical sources and reporting sick for medical reasons were both significantly associated with poorer mental health.


Over a period of 18 months, deployment mental health symptoms in UK armed forces personnel were fewer than those obtained from a military population sample despite continuing deployment in a high-threat context and were associated with perceptions of support.

Corresponding author
Norman Jones, MSc, King's Centre for Military Health and Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health, Academic Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Weston Education Centre, Cutcombe Road, London SE5 9RJ, UK. Email:
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Declaration of interest

P.M., J.C. N.G. and M.F. are full-time members of the UK armed forces. N.J. is a full-time reservist. N.G., M.F. and N.J. are currently seconded to King's College London. P.M. and J.C. are employed by the Ministry of Defence and work in military departments of community mental health. N.T.F. and S.W. are employed by King's College London, which receives funding from the UK Ministry of Defence. S.W. is also honorary civilian consultant advisor in psychiatry to the British army and is a trustee of Combat Stress, a UK charity that provides service and support for veterans with mental health problems.

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Mental health and psychological support in UK armed forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011

  • Norman Jones (a1), Paul Mitchell (a1), John Clack (a1), Mohammed Fertout (a1), Nicola T. Fear (a1), Simon Wessely (a1) and Neil Greenberg (a1)...
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UK Armed Forces: Support for the families?

Michael E J Wise, Consultant Psychiatrist
07 February 2014

Jones et al (1) present data showing the importance of pre-deployment preparation, leadership, medical care, and family and welfare support. They identify that stigma remains a major issue, and that much remains to be done. The role of welfare for the dependents of deployed personnel is a neglected area.

Reports have shown that the provision of pre-deployment psycho-education, and planned low frequency therapy, with an experienced therapist, can have a dramatic effect on the soldiers, let alone the 'patient'! (2)

The uncertainty, physical peril and diminished contact all place hugestresses on the families. When partners fall ill combatants may require recall as their operational effectiveness is impaired. Recall for non-combat reasons seems to occur at a lower rate than the incidence of PTSD, but can still be cut dramatically with a multimodal psychological programme. (3) The care of soldiers and their families is an under resourced area that in the time of financial restraint and cuts to the armed forces can assist retention of skilled personnel, whilst directly helping both those on the front line, but the families who also serve and wait. (4)

1 N Jones et al. Mental Health & Psychological Support in the UK armed forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. BJP (2014) 204, 157-162.

2 M E J Wise & I A Wise. Psychological Therapy In The Military.Environment: A Program Of Multimodal Therapy For Soldiers And Dependents APA New Research Abstract Book (2013) 37.

3 I A Wise & M E J Wise. A Psychotherapy Program For Soldiers Dependents: The Effect On Recall Rates: They Are Not Going For Three WeeksAnd The Fighting Has Already Begun! Suppl 1 Vol 26, European Psychiatry January 2011

4 M E J Wise, Territorial Recruits. The Times November 21, 2013.

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Conflict of interest: None declared

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