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Evidence synthesis and visualisation: a multi-method approach

FiMT wanted to understand not only the prevalence of mental health issues in military personnel and their families, but also the experiences of those suffering from them and the effectiveness of interventions used to treat them. To address these different objectives required the NatCen team to find and then make sense of many different sources of evidence.

The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) commissioned NatCen to undertake a systematic review on the mental health needs of serving and ex-Service military personnel. The Executive Summary is here (pdf) and the full report is available here.

The research combined a systematic review (a rigorous and systematic process to find and select research studies, then synthesise their findings) with a set of interviews with stakeholders from the Ministry of Defence (MOD), NHS England, veteran charities and academic institutions. In all, the project drew on the findings of 190 independent research studies. These included surveys of the prevalence of mental health problems, interviews, focus groups and ethnographic studies to understand experiences of mental health problems and help-seeking, and ‘impact evaluations’ such as randomised controlled trials to explore the effectiveness of interventions to address mental health needs. The research team adopted different approaches to combining and presenting its findings, including an ‘evidence map’ illustrating the scope of the available evidence base and meta-analysis to synthesise the findings of multiple independent studies.

For more information on evidence reviews, contact daniel.phillips@natcen.ac.uk