We Are Warriors: The Psychology of Men at War

  • Rod Eldridge
  • Edward FraserEmail author


Military service is a uniquely demanding occupation, requiring individuals who are able to execute difficult tasks under intense pressure. The benefits of strong masculine beliefs around strength, honour and courage to prepare a force for war are readily apparent, but such beliefs may have negative consequences when the time for conflict has passed. This chapter provides a brief insight into the British Armed Forces’ psyche by exploring the current and historic thinking and practice that underpins these masculine beliefs, and their effects on help-seeking and adjustment processes in current and former service personnel. The authors hope that the chapter will be of interest to a general audience, especially professionals working with male service and ex-service personnel in healthcare, social and welfare settings.


Men War Hyper-masculinity Male psychology 


  1. Ashcroft, M. (2014). The veterans’ transition review. Retrieved from
  2. Bergman, B. P., Mackay, D. F., & Pell, J. (2016). Understanding the early service leaver. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 73(1).
  3. Bergman, B. P., Mackay, D. F., Smith, D. J., & Pell, J. P. (2017). Suicide in Scottish military veterans: A 30-year retrospective cohort study. Occupational Medicine (early online publication). Scholar
  4. Buckman, J. E. J., Forbes, H. J., Clayton, T., Jones, M., Jones, N., Greenberg, N., et al. (2012). Early service leavers: A study of the factors associated with premature separation from the UK Armed Forces and the mental health of those that leave early. The European Journal of Public Health (advance online publication). Scholar
  5. Connell, R. W. (2005). Masculinities (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dempsey, N. (2018). House of Commons briefing paper: UK defence personnel statistics. Retrieved from
  7. Du Preez, J., Sundin, J., Wessely, S., & Fear, N. T. (2012). Unit cohesion and mental health in the UK armed forces. Occupational Medicine, 62, 47–53. Scholar
  8. Fear, N. T., Iversen, A., Meltzer, H., Workman, L., Hull, L., Greenberg, N., et al. (2007). Patterns of drinking in the UK Armed Forces. Addiction, 102(11), 1749–1759.
  9. Fear, N. T., Jones, M., Murphy, D., Hull, L., Iversen, A. C., Coker, B., et al. (2010). What are the consequences of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan on the mental health of the UK armed forces? A cohort study. Lancet, 375(9728), 1783–1797. Scholar
  10. Forces in Mind Trust. (2017). Stigma and barriers to care in service leavers with mental health problems. Retrieved from
  11. Fraser, E. (2017). Military veterans’ experiences of NHS mental health services. Journal of Public Mental Health, 16(1), 21–27. Scholar
  12. Gee, D. (2007). Informed choice? Armed forces recruitment practice in the United Kingdom. Retrieved from
  13. Gee, D. (2017). The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment. Retrieved from
  14. Gibbs, P. (1920). Now it can be told. New York: Garden City Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Goodwin, L., Wessely, S., Hotopf, M., Jones, M., Greenberg, N., Rona, R. J., et al. (2014). Are common mental disorders more prevalent in the UK serving military compared to the general working population? Psychological Medicine, 45(9), 1–11. Scholar
  16. Hacker Hughes, J. G. H., Cameron, F. J., Eldridge, R., Devon, M., Wessely, S., & Greenberg, N. (2005). Going to war can be good for you: Deployment to war in Iraq is associated with improved mental health for UK personnel. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2005(186), 536–537. Retrieved from
  17. Howard League for Penal Reform. (2010). Report of the inquiry into former Armed Service personnel in prison. Retrieved from
  18. Jones, E., & Wessely, S. (2014). Legacy of the 1914–18 war 2 Battle for the mind: World War 1 and the birth of military psychiatry. Lancet, 2014(384), 1708–1714. Scholar
  19. Jones, N., Seddon, R., Fear, N. T., McAllister, P., Wessely, S., & Greenberg, N. (2012). Leadership, cohesion, morale, and the mental health of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Psychiatry, 75(1), 49–59. Scholar
  20. Jones, M., Sundin, J., Goodwin, L., Hull, L., Fear, N. T., Wessely, S., et al. (2013). What explains post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in UK service personnel: Deployment or something else? Psychological Medicine, 43(8), 1703–1712. Scholar
  21. Kapur, N., While, D., Blatchley, N., Bray, I., & Harrison, K. (2009). Suicide after Leaving the UK Armed Forces—A Cohort Study. PLOS Medicine, 6(3). Scholar
  22. MacManus, D., & Wessely, S. (2013). Veteran mental health services in the UK: Are we headed in the right direction? Journal of Mental Health, 22(4), 301–305. Scholar
  23. Ministry of Defence. (2017a). UK armed forces mental health: Annual summary & trends over time, 2007/08–2016/17. Retrieved from
  24. Ministry of Defence. (2017b). Suicide and open verdict deaths in the UK regular armed forces: Annual summary and trends over time, 1 January 1984 to 31 December 2016. Retrieved from
  25. Ministry of Defence & Veterans UK. (2018). Armed forces covenant. Retrieved from
  26. Murphy, D., Weijers, B., Palmer, E., & Busuttil, W. (2015). Exploring patterns in referrals to combat stress for UK veterans with mental health difficulties between 1994 and 2014. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, 17(3), 652–658. Available from
  27. NHS Digital. (2016). Adult psychiatric morbidity survey: Survey of mental health and wellbeing, England, 2014. Retrieved from
  28. NHS England. (2016). The five year forward view for mental health. Retrieved from
  29. Office for National Statistics. (2017). Suicides in Great Britain: 2016 registrations. Retrieved from
  30. Pinder, R. J., Greenberg, N., Boyko, E. J., Gackstetter, G. D., Hooper, T. I., Murphy, D., et al. (2012). Profile of two cohorts: UK and US prospective studies of military health. International Journal of Epidemiology, 41(5), 1272–1282. Scholar
  31. Royal British Legion. (2014). The UK ex-service community: A household survey. Retrieved from
  32. Sassoon, S. (1918). Counter-attack and other poems. London: William Heinemann.Google Scholar
  33. Sharp, M., Fear, N. T., Rona, R. J., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., Jones, N., et al. (2015). Stigma as a barrier to seeking health care among military personnel with mental health problems. Epidemiology Review, 37, 144–162. Scholar
  34. Sundin, J., Jones, N., Greenberg, N., Rona, R. J., Hotopf, M., Wessely, S., et al. (2010). Mental health among commando, airborne and other UK infantry personnel. Occupational Medicine, 60(7), 552–559. Scholar
  35. Taylor, J. T. (2013). Walking wounded, the life and poetry of vernon scannell. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain, body in the transformation of trauma. London and New York: Penguin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Walking with the WoundedNorfolkUK
  2. 2.Norfolk County CouncilNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations