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Academic receives funding for study on the psychological health and wellbeing of ex-service families

An academic from Queen’s University Belfast has been awarded £306,956 of funding to conduct a UK-wide study examining the psychosocial determinants of psychological health and wellbeing for UK military veteran families.

Professor Chérie Armour, Director of the Stress, Trauma and Related Conditions (STARC) research lab, at Queen’s University is leading on the project, which was commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT).

The project will identify the psychological health and wellbeing needs of families of ex-service personnel across the UK .Through a survey, in-depth interviews and focus groups with families, the research will examine the drivers that support psychological wellbeing as well as the challenges that come with having a member of the family in the Armed Forces. It will also identify the likely future needs of ex-service families.

The announcement of the project coincides with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a tribute to those who served in one of the most significant events in our country’s history, the Second World War.

The project is due to begin in September 2020 and will last two years. As well as Queen’s, the project benefits from a UK-wide partnership of research institutions including King’s College London, Anglia Ruskin University, Cardiff University and Glasgow Caledonian University. The charity sector partner is Combat Stress.

Professor Chérie Armour, Project lead at Queen’s University Belfast, says: “We are delighted to receive this award and take forward this important piece of research. Families are key to the health and wellbeing of military veteran populations as they provide that first line of support. We understand that being a family member of a veteran can at times come with challenges. Families may have experienced a number of geographical re-locations during a military career, have had worry and upset during times of the service person’s deployment, and may have experienced some economic, social, and psychological challenges because of transition from military to civilian life; the family transitions with the service person. A smaller proportion may also be caring for our veterans who are suffering mental ill health.

“What we need is a robust and detailed understanding of what that means for the family and their own personal health and wellbeing. This award allows us to investigate exactly that and to provide a solid evidence base upon which family support providers can call upon when designing support services.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of FiMT, says: “The importance of armed forces families is widely recognised. The extent to which a family can support a service leaver during their time in service and their subsequent exit is a strong indicator of a successful transition. While most service leavers and their families make a successful transition to civilian life, there is a minority who struggle, and the impact of service on the psychological health and wellbeing of families is an under-researched area. This study will provide us with an important evidence base on the needs of ex-service families and will offer much-needed recommendations on how best to support them.”

Professor Chérie Armour has been running the Northern Ireland veterans' health and wellbeing study since 2016 that is ending in Sept 2020; in this study veterans have provided feedback that their family members were their rock and had been through a lot. The previous project – the Northern Ireland Veterans' Health and Wellbeing Study (NIVHWS) – resulted in changes to how services operated, the establishment of a NI based veteran support office funded by Westminster and presentations to the defence select committee to highlight the lack of bespoke mental health support for veterans who reside in NI.

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