Journal of Community Nursing - page 30

30 JCN
2014,Vol 28, No 5
ne of the primary aims of
the British armed forces is to
deploy a capable workforce
while minimising the effect of mental
health problems on its members as
they perform their military duties. To
do this, it is essential that soldiers (in
this paper the general term for Royal
Navy, army and RAF personnel)
are provided with excellent clinical,
psychological, welfare and social
support. To achieve this, the defence
medical services aims to maximise
the psychological support afforded to
soldiers by providing immediate and
effective mental health care wherever
they are serving. Deployable support
is provided by a field mental health
team comprising military mental
health nurses.
Factors affecting mental health support
to the British armed forces: part one
Military mental health differs
from civilian practice by providing
an occupational mental health
service that makes recommendations
regarding a soldier’s suitability for
service. This is a specialised service
dealing predominately with the
issues of fit young men and, with
the challenges faced in such a
demanding environment, there is a
requirement to provide soldiers with
the tools to help them manage their
emotions (Conrad and White, 2010).
Performance indicators and military
satisfaction surveys indicate that the
British armed force’s mental health
service is of a very high standard
(Finnegan and Finnegan, 2007).
Military mental health focuses
on operational deployment, with
the aim of maintaining the numbers
of fighting troops at a maximum.
The objective is to provide support
as near as possible to any traumatic
event and keep soldiers within the
combat environment to ensure that
they maintain their military identity
as it is assumed this will aid recovery
(O’Brien, 1998).
During operations, military mental
health nurses are deployed with
troops into hostile environments to
ensure that a seamless mental health
pathway is available.
Soldiers make a lifestyle choice to
join the armed forces and structures
such as suicide vulnerability risk
management (SVRM) are in place
to protect vulnerable personnel
(Fertout et al, 2011) — this means
that serious mental illness is rare.
Of the approximately 1,600 people
who leave the services each year
on medical grounds, only around
150 leave for mental health reasons
Colonel Alan Finnegan, defence professor of
nursing, Academic Department for Defence
Nursing, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine,
Birmingham; Sara Finnegan, registered nurse,
Eastham Group Practice, Wirral; Professor Mike
Thomas, deputy vice chancellor University of
Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston
To help the British armed forces minimise mental health problems
while undertaking military duties, operational psychological support is
provided by military mental health nurses. This series of two articles is
part of the first qualitative research completed in Afghanistan by British
armed forces into the effectiveness of the military mental health nursing
role. The authors aim to increase understanding of the factors that
affect the delivery of nursing care during an operational deployment,
including educational and clinical competency, multiprofessional and
multinational boundaries, and the challenges of providing nursing care
for both military personnel and local nationals. This article, the first of
the two-part series, looks at the set up of the study, while the second
article (featured in the next issue of
) will look at the study findings.
Mental health
British armed forces
Military mental health nurses
Alan Finnegan, Sara Finnegan, Mike Thomas
However, there have been few
qualitative research studies assessing
the operational role of military mental
health nurses (Kiernan et al, 2013).
This paper, the first in a two-part
series, presents the first qualitative
defence nursing research exploring
the views of mental health and
other nurses based at Camp Bastion
Hospital, Afghanistan in 2013.
In the authors’ opinion, the British
armed forces provide robust, effective
and easily accessible mental health
services. There is a clearly defined
integrated care pathway between
primary health care, military
departments of community mental
health and secondary health care.
The military departments of
community mental health consist of
a multidisciplinary clinical staff that
provides soldiers with a medium for
sharing problems through the use
of recognised treatments such as
cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Any hospital care is provided within
the NHS through a defined contract.
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