The provision of specialist mental health services for military veterans in Northern Ireland would be supported by more than three-quarters of the NI public, a new survey has found.
Carried out for the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT), the study also showed that a large majority of people in the Province (78%) have respect for the armed forces.
Professor Chérie Armour of Ulster University (UU) was involved in conducting the study which also revealed that one-third of the Northern Ireland population have a “high to very high opinion” of how the security forces acted during the Troubles, compared to 42% who have a high to very high opinion of the UK armed forces today.
The UU associate dean of research and impact and director of the Institute of Mental Health Sciences said: “For the very first time we have been able to explore public attitudes in Northern Ireland towards the UK armed forces, veterans’ wellbeing and service provision.
“Key to our results are that the largest majority of the public reported they respect the UK armed forces and that they would be supportive of a specialist mental health service for veterans living in the region.”
Prof Armour added: “I will release a subsequent report on June 22 which has examined the need for a specialist veterans centre in Northern Ireland from the perspective of both veterans and veteran service providers.”
When asked about veterans’ wellbeing, half of those surveyed said they believed alcohol problems are more likely in someone who has served in the military, and even more (63%) believed there was a higher prevalence of mental health problems among veterans.
Evidence on the mental health of veterans in Northern Ireland has not yet been published, but in other UK regions, rates of mental health issues in veterans is almost equal to that of the general population.
Dr Paula Devine, coordinator of the NILT survey based in QUB, noted: “This is the 20th year of the Life and Times Survey, which records the attitudes of 1,200 people across Northern Ireland to key policy issues affecting our lives.
“This research shows a range of public opinion, reflecting different experiences of armed forces and of the Troubles. These findings provide a vital evidence base to inform ongoing debates about the implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant.”
The full study can be viewed here