Clinicians, policy makers, military charities and the media attended the third Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) conference held at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) on 16 May, exploring mental illness in UK armed forces and efforts towards changing public understanding.
The event featured Professor Kamaldeep Bhui CBE, Centre Lead for Psychiatry, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at QMUL in discussion with Kate Davies OBE, Head of Health & Justice, Armed Forces and Public Health NHS England and Matthew Green, journalist for the Financial Times and Reuters.
The conference focused on mental health among veterans from the armed forces. It also considered the patterns of illness and recovery, and how public understanding may be focused on the wrong issues. In particular, it debated whether an emphasis on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may have distracted attention from other more common mental health conditions.
Almost 100 other guests from across the UK also attended the conference at the Wolfson Institute at QMUL with speakers from the public health, academic and media sectors providing expert insights and latest research findings.
Professor Kamaldeep Bhui commented: “Servicemen face life-threatening situations whilst serving their country, on attempting to return to ordinary life they encounter unexpected risks to their health, not only related to the trauma of war but also to the demand of settling into routine work, making and keeping friends and pursuing family life.”
He added: “For too long we have as a society neglected the needs of veterans, so now integrating their health care into routine NHS and social services is a must do. This will require research into the best models of care that consider their unique experiences, and the complex needs due to trauma, and the psychological and physical hazards of warfare.”
The conference is set against the falling income of military charities since the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, as the challenges faced by members of the Armed Forces returning from active service fall out of the public eye.
Professor Bhui continues: “The study undertaken by QMUL and KCL, funded by FiMT and QMUL, sets out clearly that veterans face multiple psychological symptoms, not only PTSD, and that these are worrisome, and painful. The study shows that we must address these more common symptoms and states of psychological distress, alongside physical health care and support for transition in to family and working lives.”
The event took place at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine.
The Forces in Mind Trust aims to provide an evidence base that will influence and underpin policy making and service delivery in order to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to lead successful civilian lives.
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