"He messaged me the other night and said you are my saviour": An interpretative phenomenological analysis of intimate partner's role in supporting veterans with mental health difficulties

Hannah Johnstone, Nicola Cogan

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Introduction: The limited research base regarding veteran welfare has emphasised the adverse psychosocial aspects of being the intimate partner of a veteran struggling with mental health difficulties. Despite this, many veterans and intimate partners remain married or in civil partnerships. Aim: This study aims to explore intimate partner’s views of the role they play in their veteran partner’s recovery from mental health difficulties and to explore the personal meanings they associate with this role. Methods: Six female partners of veterans were recruited using purposive sampling. Qualitative data was collected using semi-structured one to one interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to gain an in‐depth understanding of the lived experiences of partners of veterans recovering from mental health difficulties. Results: Three superordinate themes and two subordinate themes were identified: (1) The multifaceted nature of support (knowing the warning signs), (2) vicarious psychosocial consequences of the caring role and (3) reconstruction of identity following transition (sense of purpose beyond the military). Discussion: Intimate partners of veterans described how they aided in the recovery of veterans experiencing mental health difficulties as well as detailing the challenges they faced. Future research topics are considered, and recommendations for further support for the intimate partners themselves are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Issue number2
Early online date12 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2021


  • veterans
  • military
  • partners
  • mental health difficulties
  • recovery
  • IPA
  • caregiving
  • depression
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • intimate partners
  • PTSD

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