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Gender differences in barriers to mental healthcare for UK military veterans: a preliminary investigation


Introduction Limited UK research focuses on female military veterans’ gender-related experiences and issues when accessing civilian mental healthcare support. This study sought to illuminate a preliminary understanding of any gender differences in barriers that may discourage them accessing mental healthcare support.

Methods A total of 100 participants completed an open online survey of UK triservice veterans who identified as having experienced postmilitary mental health problems. They completed a 30-item Barriers to Access to Care Evaluation scale and were asked to elaborate using free-text questions. Resulting quantitative data were analysed for gender-related differences, while the qualitative text was thematically explored.

Results While stigma, previous poor experience of mental healthcare and a lack of trust in civilian providers were found to act as barriers to postmilitary support for both men and women, significantly more women reported that their gender had also impacted on their intention to seek help. Women also commented on the impact of gender-related discrimination during service on their help-seeking experiences.

Conclusions While efforts are being made by the UK Ministry of Defence to reduce barriers to mental healthcare for those still serving in the Armed Forces, it has been more difficult to provide a similar level of support to the veteran population. With little veteran research focusing on the specific experiences of women, this study suggests that female veterans encounter specific access barriers and issues related to their gender. Further research is therefore needed to ensure these findings are addressed.

  • quality in health care
  • mental health
  • psychiatry
  • qualitative research

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