Article Text

UK military doctors; stigma, mental health and help-seeking: a comparative cohort study
  1. Norman Jones1,
  2. D Whybrow2 and
  3. R Coetzee3
    1. 1Academic Department of Military Mental Health, Ministry of Defence, Weston Education Centre, London, UK
    2. 2School of Healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
    3. 3HQ Defence Primary Healthcare, Ministry of Defence, Lichfield, UK
    1. Correspondence to Norman Jones, Ministry of Defence, Academic Department for Military Mental Health, Weston Education Centre, London, SE5 9RJ, UK; norman.jones{at}


    Introduction Studies suggest that medical doctors can suffer from substantial levels of mental ill-health. Little is known about military doctors’ mental health and well-being; we therefore assessed attitudes to mental health, self-stigma, psychological distress and help-seeking among UK Armed Forces doctors.

    Methods Six hundred and seventy-eight military doctors (response rate 59%) completed an anonymous online survey. Comparisons were made with serving and ex-military personnel (n=1448, response rate 84.5%) participating in a mental health-related help-seeking survey. Basic sociodemographic data were gathered, and participants completed measures of mental health-related stigmatisation, perceived barriers to care and the 12-Item General Health Questionnaire. All participants were asked if in the last three years they had experienced stress, emotional, mental health, alcohol, family or relationship problems, and whether they had sought help from formal sources.

    Results Military doctors reported fewer mental disorder symptoms than the comparison groups. They endorsed higher levels of stigmatising beliefs, negative attitudes to mental healthcare, desire to self-manage and self-stigmatisation than each of the comparison groups. They were most concerned about potential negative effects of and peer perceptions about receiving a mental disorder diagnosis. Military doctors reporting historical and current relationship, and alcohol or mental health problems were significantly and substantially less likely to seek help than the comparison groups.

    Conclusions Although there are a number of study limitations, outcomes suggest that UK military doctors report lower levels of mental disorder symptoms, higher levels of stigmatising beliefs and a lower propensity to seek formal support than other military reference groups.

    • military
    • doctors
    • mental Health
    • stigmatisation
    • help-seeking

    Statistics from


    • Contributors RC contributed to research design, commented extensively on the paper and collected the data. DW contributed to research design and commented extensively on the paper. NJ contributed to research design, performed the analyses and wrote the paper.

    • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

    • Competing interests None declared.

    • Patient consent Not required.

    • Ethics approval Ethical approval was granted by the UK Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee (535/MODREC/14 for the telephone interview study and 557/MODREC/14 for the doctor’s study).

    • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

    • Collaborators Norman Jones, Dean Whybrow, Rikus Coetzee.

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