A third of veterans feel that perceptions around mental health issues relating to time served in the armed forces, such as PTSD, are detrimental to their career progression in the civilian job market.
According to a new study from the Barclays Armed Forces Transition Employment and Resettlement (AFTER) programme carried out among veterans who are currently in employment on ‘Civvy Street’, the problem is particularly acute among younger veterans. Almost half (46%) of 18-34 year old veterans see perceptions around mental health issues as a barrier to a successful career, compared to 33% of 35-54s and 22% of those aged 55+.
It is not just the veterans themselves who have these concerns however. Despite efforts from employers to improve awareness and better support employees with mental health issues, one in 10 (11%) ex-forces personnel have had an interviewer make reference to a concern about PTSD during a job interview, and almost half (46%) of veterans believe that their colleagues’ preconceptions about what they may have experienced during their time in the forces is an obstacle to their career progression.
Despite the preconception that members of the armed forces are more likely to have psychological problems than an average member of the public, this is not the case and is often misjudged by employers. In fact, just 1 in 25 Regulars and 1 in 20 Reservists will report symptoms of PTSD following a period of action. This is very similar to the rate of mental health issues in the general population, yet the research paints a picture of potential prejudice for some veterans in particular, especially if they are having to vouch for their own mental wellbeing at interview.
This research has identified a concerning preconception of mental health issues relating to veterans among employers. Mental health issues are not restricted to ex-forces personnel but our research raises questions about how employers perceive mental health issues when compared with how they view candidates applying for a job that have no military background. As a consequence, we need to correct this misperception as it could have a negative impact on those transitioning into the civilian workplace.
Ex-forces personnel offer a wealth of transferable skills, including leadership, teamwork, strategic planning and problem solving – which employers may be missing out on due to a misplaced focus on mental health issues. We need to work together in the state, military and private sectors to understand and address PTSD as an invisible scar of war, and the natural – but treatable – consequence of combat. We also need to understand that most veterans do not have PTSD and, even when a veteran suffers from PTSD it does not need to be a barrier to meaningful employment, as with the right clinical intervention it is treatable.
Peter Poole, Chief of Staff at veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress, said: “While the majority of service personnel have a positive experience during and after their military career, a small minority may need additional support.
One important area is mental health. There is little difference between the rates of mental health issues within the military and civilian communities, therefore veterans should suffer no discrimination when seeking employment after leaving the Armed Forces.
Veterans play a vital role in many businesses across the UK and we hope more organisations will recognise the value ex-service personnel bring to the workplace. As a society we need to focus on the benefits of employing veterans and work together to reduce misconceptions around veterans’ mental health to ensure they lead fulfilling lives.
By Stuart Tootal, Head of the Barclays Armed Forces Transition Employment and Resettlement (AFTER) programme