Education Mental Health

Military Mental Health: Understanding AD, Depression and Routes to Support

Military Mental Health

Military Mental Health

Military service is celebrated by many in the UK but is by no means a standalone act for individuals that have given their time to the armed forces. Indeed, serving in the military is dangerous for multiple reasons, not in the least the lasting mental health impacts that the British Military Journal indicates affects over a million veterans in the UK. There are two key mental conditions that emerge in military veterans, and which can have extremely limiting impacts on life after service: depression, and adjustment disorder (AD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another serious form of mental illness that can have direct and destructive impacts on quality of life, but it is more often linked to specific instances within an individual’s experience of the military – and comes with its own distinct conversations. Here, we are concerned with the other, subtler long-term conditions and the effect they can have on ex-servicepeople who perhaps feel unable to properly open up about their struggles.

Depression and AD are the most common of these, and, while stigma regarding these conditions is certainly falling, it can still be difficult for sufferers to know where they stand. This is particularly true of veterans who may feel at sea and may be unaware of the resources available to them. With this in mind, what are some of the hallmarks of chronic mental health after military service, and how can veterans access the support they need?


Depression is one of the most common mental disorders encountered in the UK, and one which affects around one in twelve people in the UK. It is a disease typified by low mood or loss of interest in life, and that can present as mood swings, low self-esteem and even intrusive thoughts relating to self-harm.

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder (AD), meanwhile, is a condition that occurs as a result of significant change in the sufferer’s life. It is often referred to colloquially as ‘situational depression’, owing to being a direct and immediate response to a change in circumstances and a less chronic condition than depression.

AD often lasts for a period of months; symptoms can track with those of clinical depression, but also range widely in scope depending on the specific stressors that affect them. For veterans, emotional disturbance might be more likely.

Rights and Support for Military Veterans

The presence of these conditions after service can prove isolating to veterans where they feel apart from the rest of the population – and particularly where the root causes for such conditions were avoidable. But there are various mechanisms and support networks by which ex-servicepeople can seek assistance and closure.

Government schemes such as the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme enable injured servicepeople to claim against injuries in the line of duty, while military solicitors exist to help veterans navigate negligence-related civil claims. Armed forces charities work hands-on with struggling veterans to provide infrastructure and pastoral support in navigating life after service and can also assist with mental health issues outside of medical treatment.

Treating Mental Illness

Speaking of which, there are myriad ways in which depression and AD can be met with regards to treatment. Mental illness is ultimately an individual experience, and what works for one veteran may not be effective for another. For many, the symptoms of both depression and AD can be effectively managed through courses of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Pharmaceutical solutions also exist, in the form of beta-blockers for symptoms of anxiety and SSRIs for regulating mood.