Catherine Hitch

My name is Catherine Hitch; I am a 3rd year PhD researcher at Queens University, Belfast.  I have a personal interest in the Armed Force community and have tailored all research projects where possible towards this population.  My PhD relates to help-seeking behaviour within the context of mental health and alcohol difficulties, and it specifically targets Northern Ireland veterans.  NI veterans are a particularly under researched sub-population and I am honoured to be involved in a seminal project exploring them, funded by the Royal British Legion. I advocate taking a mixed methods approach to attempt to answer those ‘why?’ questions.

Exploring enablers and barriers to help-seeking, for military veterans with mental health and alcohol difficulties? A qualitative systematic review

Background: Veteran help-seeking (HS) literature and systematic reviews often use/include mixed populations (e.g. serving personnel, veterans, civilians). Research is also typically quantitative. Whilst it is understood why these aproaches are taken these two tendencies are problematic. Veterans-specific barriers and enablers may be unique and it is difficult to understand the HS process through a quantitative methodology. Systemically reviewing qualitative studies which have focused purely on veteran HS studies would aid our understanding.

Methods: Ten databases were searched. Search terms linked to: veterans, mental health, alcohol, HS, qualitative. Data were analysed thematically.

Results: The initial search resulted in 953 articles; six were reviewed. Four main themes were identified: ‘Military culture – culturised norms’, ‘severity of the problem’, ‘the System’ and ‘relationships and support’. Barriers and enablers exist at individual and group levels. Collectively, themes indicated that HS is a journey, however, it needs to be noted that HS for vetearns is not necessarily a linear process. Some methodological aspects were reported sufficiently (data collection, themes, quotes), however, no study justified taking a specific qualitative approach, or describe analysis taken. Other issues included participant selection, researcher input and ethical considerations.

Conclusions: Veteran HS is a process, impacted by individual and group-level factors, that changes over time. The HS process can be explored qualitatively, however, research rigor and reporting require improvement.

Poster link: