Are veterans different? Understanding veterans’ help seeking behaviour for alcohol problems

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Abstract

Alcohol misuse in the United Kingdom’s veteran community is not an isolated phenomenon. Internationally, alcohol and wider substance misuse would appear to be an historic and current global issue within veteran communities. Although research has been undertaken both in the UK and the US into why veterans are reluctant to seek help for mental health problems, little is understood as to why veterans encounter difficulties in engaging with treatment for alcohol misuse. The aim of this study was to understand why veterans in the United Kingdom are either reluctant, or have difficulty in accessing help for alcohol problems. An applied social policy research methodology was used, employing in-depth semi-structured interviews with 19 UK veterans in the North East of England, who had a history of alcohol misuse. The findings showed that participants appeared to excuse or normalise their excessive alcohol consumption, which led to a delay in meaningful engagement in substance misuse services, resulting in complex and complicated presentations to health and social care services. The findings of this study clearly suggest that veterans who misuse alcohol have a range of distinctive and unique difficulties that subtly differentiate them from the wider civilian substance misuse population, and that the use of peer-support models would appear to mitigate against them disengaging from alcohol treatment services.

What is known about this topic
• Alcohol misuse in the veteran community would appear to be an historic and current issue.
• Research undertaken on UK veterans is limited, despite there being a clear indication that excessive alcohol use is a risk amongst ex-service personnel.
• Little is understood as to why veterans encounter difficulties in engaging with treatment for alcohol misuse.

What this paper adds
• Veterans who misuse alcohol have a range of distinctive and unique difficulties that subtly differentiate them from the wider civilian substance misuse population.
• Normalisation of excessive and regular alcohol consumption leads to delayed engagement, and complex case presentation.
• Peer-support models appeared to mitigate against veterans disengaging from alcohol treatment services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725-733
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Volume26
Issue number5
Early online date31 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

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