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UK military doctors; stigma, mental health and help-seeking: a comparative cohort study

Abstract

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

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