Barriers to help-seeking in the Royal Air Force Family

October 2022 – ongoing, funded by Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.


Background:  An international review of serving personnel reported that 29% of those experiencing mental health difficulties accessed mental health services in the past year (Hom et al., 2017). This suggests that a large proportion of those experiencing mental health difficulties within the military do not seek formal medical support. Other forms of support, referred to as nonmedical professionals, relate to professionals, such as a military chaplain, welfare officer, or social workers. Literature suggests that 13% of those with stress or an emotional problem accessed nonmedical support, and 14% of those with alcohol related problems accessed nonmedical support (Hines et al., 2013). This further suggests that a large proportion of those experiencing mental health difficulties also do not seek nonmedical support. Current literature on help-seeking among current or ex-military populations have encompassed all Armed Forces, but predominately recruited those in the Army. Furthermore, in recent years, there has been a focus upon help-seeking post-deployment from Afghanistan and Iraq (Hines et al., 2014); meaning an understanding of help-seeking behaviours more generally warrants consideration. There is no literature to date exploring barriers to help-seeking among the partners of those currently serving.


The current literature on barriers to help-seeking within the military context are largely focused on mental health help-seeking. This project aims to include other facets of someone’s wellbeing, such as social, employment, financial so that are areas of wellbeing are considered, and perceived barriers identified. The findings will be used to identify recommendations as to how the military, the Royal Air Force specifically, and the charity sector more widely can help to overcome barriers to help-seeking for those in need. In addition, the findings will help to inform Ministry of Defence Health and Wellbeing services about issues of help-seeking across all services.


Methods:  Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with currently serving Royal Air Force personnel, veterans of the Royal Air Force, and partners of those currently serving. The interview data will be analysed using thematic analysis.


Research Team: Amy Pritchard (Middlesex University)


Contact:  Amy Pritchard,