Veterans' families psychological wellbeing study

Award-winning Scottish university to help veterans’ families in new UK-wide study

Thu, 07 May 2020 14:19:00 BST
GCU Veterans and Armed Forces Family
GCU Veterans and Armed Forces Family

A Scottish university hailed for its “outstanding support” of Armed Forces veterans is playing a key role in a new UK-wide study on the psychological health and wellbeing of families of ex-Service men and women.

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) psychologists are part of a team of researchers commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) to identify the needs of military veterans’ families and offer much-needed recommendations on how best to support them.

The launch 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.

Specific challenges faced by families of military personnel can include the need to move to different bases, upset and worry during times of deployment and potential economic, social, and psychological issues when transitioning from military to civilian life.

The Forces in Mind Trust has awarded a £306,956 grant to an academic at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to lead the two-year study in partnership with other top research institutions including GCU, King’s College London, Anglia Ruskin University and Cardiff University.

Scottish lead and co-investigator in the study, Dr Kareena McAloney-Kocaman, a senior lecturer in applied health psychology at GCU, said the project will “play a pivotal role in building our knowledge of the challenges faced by these families, and of how best to support them”.

She added: “We are delighted to contribute to this important research that seeks to better understand the experience of the families of military veterans.

“The family members of military veterans experience unique challenges due to the nature of a military career including not only the challenges of that career, but the transition from a military to civilian life.

“GCU has a strong commitment to support the health and well-being of our military veteran community, within GCU and more broadly within Scotland.”

Last November, GCU was awarded the Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award by the Ministry of Defence for its outstanding support of Armed Forces veterans and their families. The University also hosted a major event showcasing how we are helping veterans find new careers and adapt to civilian life.

In February this year, we revealed that a life-changing initiative giving veterans a fresh start, pioneered by GCU, has led to almost all higher and further education institutes in Scotland taking up the mantle.

GCU’s Veterans and Armed Forces Champion Jim Castle heads up HE:FE Veterans Champion's Network Chair and launched Scotland's first Veterans and Armed Forces Friends and Family (VAFFF) society for staff and students at the University.

The new study is due to begin in September 2020 and the charity sector partner is Combat Stress, the UK's leading veterans' mental health charity supporting veterans affected by anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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-Armed Forces families.

Project lead Professor Chérie Armour, Director of the Stress, Trauma and Related Conditions (STARC) research lab at QUB, explained: “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.

“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.”

FiMT Chief Executive Ray Lock added: “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.”