Mental Health and the Armed Forces, Part One: The Scale of mental health issues Contents


1.There has been an increasing focus on mental health over recent years across the UK Armed Forces. In its latest strategy published in July 2017—the ‘Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy’—the Ministry of Defence highlighted that this reflected the changing perceptions around mental health nationally, as well as the context of sustained operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.1

Our inquiry

2.On 31 January 2018, we launched Part One of our inquiry into Mental Health and the Armed Forces. This was to examine the extent of mental health issues across both serving Armed Forces personnel and veterans. Our call for evidence asked for submissions which addressed the following questions:

3.We held three oral evidence sessions with contributions from academics; clinical leads of leading Armed Forces charities and statutory veterans’ mental healthcare providers in Scotland and Wales; the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP; the Surgeon-General, Lieutenant General Martin Bricknell; the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price MP; and the Director of Health & Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning at NHS England, Kate Davies OBE.

4.We are grateful to all of our witnesses who gave oral and written evidence. We would also like to thank Professor Neil Greenberg, King’s College London, who acted as a Special Adviser to the inquiry.

Our report

5.Most UK Armed Forces Service personnel leave with a positive experience of military service and no ill-effects. However, some are clearly affected by mental health issues during or after service and, in Chapter 2, we examine the degree to which these can be attributed to or indeed militated by military service.

6.We then examine, in Chapter 3, the current data available from Government and how the limitations of such data may prevent a clear answer on what is the scale of mental health conditions in serving personnel and veterans’ mental health. We consider the academic and Armed Forces charities data showing the effect of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in Chapter 4 and the groups of serving personnel and veterans who may be more vulnerable to developing mental health conditions in Chapter 5.

7.Acknowledging the limitations on currently available data, we compare how the trends in military mental health compare to the general public, regionally and internationally in Chapter 6. We then compare the public’s perception of the effect of military service on mental health and the consequences of any differences in Chapter 7. Finally, in Chapter 8, we examine how military service might impact on the mental health of the families of serving personnel and veterans.

8.This report on the extent of mental health issues forms Part One of our Inquiry into Mental Health and the Armed Forces. We have today (25 July) also launched Part Two into the provision of mental health care to serving personnel and veterans across the UK and we shall be accepting evidence submissions over the summer.2

2 Details of this inquiry can be found on the Defence Committee’s webpage.

Published: 25 July 2018