New research has been published from the Mental Health Toolkit for Veterans (MeT4VeT) project which assessed a mobile app for veterans' mental health. The research, published in JMIR Mental Health, drew on previous work by King's Centre for Military Health Research on the Stigma and Barriers to Care Project.
The project identified the help-seeking barriers that veterans faced: veterans struggled to define their problems as mental health difficulties, did not recognise the need for help until their difficulty had reached a crisis point and when seeking help, were overwhelmed by the number of services available to them from the NHS to third sector. A mobile app was designed to assist with these barriers and the app development included a review of existing tools and involvement with stakeholders and veterans.
Who took part in the study?
Participants were eligible if they:
- Were male.
- Owned a smartphone.
- Served at least 2 years in the UK Armed Forces (UKAF).
- Left the UKAF within the last 2 years.
- Were not undertaking formal mental health treatment.
- Indicated a degree of mental health distress assessed by a score of 2 or more on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12).
Only males were included due to the app design being based on data previously collected from male veterans. Our team are currently engaged with projects looking at the mental health needs of female veterans and we hope to carry out future work with the app to include all veterans.
50 participants were included in the study and randomised to either the full app (24 people) or a control group (26 people), which consisted of an app with information related to veterans' mental health organisations. Participants were asked to use the app for a minimum of 28 days. Questionnaires related to mental health were completed at baseline, 1 month and 3 months and app usability after 1 month.
What did we find?
Technical delivery of the app was successful, with only minor technical issues experienced by three participants. The collection of mental health questionnaires was deemed acceptable, with a potential improvement in mental health for the full app group from baseline to 3 months follow-up, compared with the control group who showed no improvement over the same time period.
The participants in our study were comparable to Ministry of Defence personnel in terms of service branch and rank but were substantially older compared to those leaving the UKAF between 2020 and 2022. To improve comparability, it is suggested to recruit from a wider age range to include younger veterans and females.
The results of the study indicated that the app was both feasible and acceptable for veterans and the refinement of recruitment processes would allow for a larger number of participants to be recruited for a future randomised controlled trial. There is the potential to relax the eligibility criteria in some areas to allow for younger veterans and females to be included, as well as those at any stage of transition from service.
You can read the full research article below and the previously published report here.
Parkes S, Croak B, Brooks S, Stevelink S, Leightley D, Fear N, Rafferty L, Greenberg N. Evaluating a Smartphone App (MeT4VeT) to Support the Mental Health of UK Armed Forces Veterans: Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Ment Health 2023;10:e46508. https://doi.org/10.2196/46508
This study was funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) using an endowment awarded by the National Lottery Community Fund (project FiMT17/1023K).