A modified grounded theory study exploring the impact of military service in Northern Ireland on mental wellbeing
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AbstractMilitary service in Operation Banner during the Northern Ireland Troubles posed significant challenges for individual soldiers. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of service in Operation Banner on the mental wellbeing of veterans who served in this conflict, and factors that have hindered or facilitated acquiring help in those who have experienced mental distress. This is a qualitative study that has utilised a modified grounded theory methodology and adopted a symbolic interactionism theoretical framework. Data were collected in semi-structured interviews with 16 veterans, recruited via advertising in newsletters distributed by veterans’ organisations to their members, advertising via posters and local radio and through snowballing. Data analysis was by open and focussed coding, supported by computer assisted qualitative data analysis software. The study confirms that for the majority, military service did not result in long-term mental distress and participants gained useful career and life skills. Yet, for some mental distress has persisted. Since leaving Operation Banner, the ability of veterans to cope with the past and meet present or future challenges has been through a combination of innate skills, resilience, individual initiative, outside support, and making use of opportunity. For some, though, coping has been hindered by internal barriers such as self-isolation, emotional suppression, legacies of military culture and veterans’ perceptions of indifference or even hostility by society and politicians. These barriers have led to some veterans to being predominantly oriented towards the past and unable or unwilling to seek help, a situation made worse by threats of prosecuting veterans, which have reinforced memories of the past. This study theorises, therefore, that there is no single way to help these veterans without understanding each veteran’s perception of themselves. When this self-identity is predominantly past-oriented, internal barriers negate the relevance of external help. When the veteran’s self tends towards future-orientation, external barriers to accessing help are more relevant. Understanding this individuality of self-perception may help to address factors that are maintaining past-orientation. Yet, for those who seek a resilient future, providing the right services, at the right time and in the right format is critical. This study helps to fill the relative gap in qualitative studies on UK veterans and those from Operation Banner in particular. Recommendations are made for the support of Operation Banner veterans and for future research.
CitationFrith, A. (2021). A modified grounded theory study exploring the impact of military service in Northern Ireland on mental wellbeing [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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