The annual report on mental health in the UK Armed Forces reveals a significant rise in personnel seeking care.

The report, covering the period from April 2007 to March 2023, provides insights into the prevalence and management of mental health issues among service personnel. While the overall rate remains comparable to the general population, the report highlights the need for continued support and specialized care for the armed forces.

The UK Armed Forces Mental Health: Annual Summary & Trends Over Time report, published June 29, sheds light on the challenges faced by service personnel over the past 16 years. The statistical analysis provides a detailed overview of trends and the utilization of mental health services within the armed forces.

Rising rates of mental health in UK armed forces report raise concerns

Mental health has become an increasingly important issue in the UK Armed Forces in recent years. The latest report provides an overview of the situation, highlighting the need for improved care and support for military personnel experiencing mental health problems.

According to the report, 1 in 8 (13.2%) UK Armed Forces personnel sought help in military healthcare settings for mental health-related reasons in 2022/23. This represents a statistically significant increase compared to previous years. The rise in presentations is a cause for concern and requires attention from both the MOD and external stakeholders.

The reasons behind this upward trend are complex and multifaceted. While the report suggests that cost of living pressures may contribute to the increase, further research is needed to understand the underlying factors fully. Nevertheless, the statistics serve as a reminder of the importance of addressing these issues within the armed forces.

The report also highlights the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health presentations. During periods of national lockdown restrictions in 2020/21, there was a statistically significant fall in the rate of personnel seeking help. This indicates the influence of external factors on mental well-being and emphasizes the need for tailored support during challenging times.

In 2020, The US Department of Defense Military Health System turned its focus on exploring the psychological impacts of Covid-19 on health care workers, service members, veterans, civilians and their families.

Primary care, represented by General Practitioners (GPs), plays a role in managing mental health concerns among military personnel. The majority of individuals initially consult their GP. While GPs manage most patients with mental health issues, those with more complex needs are referred to specialist care providers.

The report reveals that the rate of personnel seen for a mental disorder at MOD Specialist Mental Health Services has decreased over time. This may be attributed to a change in managing low-risk patients with common disorders, offering self-help and psychological interventions in primary care.

As a result, the referral rates for specialist interventions for stress-related disorders categorized as “other neurotic” might have decreased, with these disorders being managed primarily in primary healthcare settings.

Regarding new episodes of care, the report revealed a statistically significant decrease in the rate of new episodes at MOD Specialist Mental Health Services in 2022/23, accounting for 2.7% of UK Armed Forces personnel.

Within this period, 3,902 personnel had 4,263 new episodes of care, with 4,003 new episodes recorded at MOD DCMH facilities and 260 at MOD in-patient providers.

In the breakdown of initial assessments for mental health disorders at MOD DCMH facilities during 2022/23, neurotic disorders accounted for most new episodes of care, with 2,094.