Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Alan Finnegan is a former UK Ministry of Defence professor of nursing who served with the British Army from 1987 until this year. Among other places, he was posted to Iraq, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Afghanistan. Colonel Finnegan has also served as a nurse consultant in military mental health and as the MoD specialist nursing adviser in mental health. In January, he was appointed professor of nursing and military mental health at the University of Chester

HE&ME_standfirst. May vary in depth - shorter is better. May also go over two columns depending on picture. Name of person interviewed in black, please

When were you born and where was home?

I was born in 1960 and spent my formative years in either Dublin or Birmingham.

How has this shaped you?

My parents were part of the large Irish population that moved to Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s. They were humble and modest, and they instilled a work ethic built on the premise that you get out what you put in. The importance of education as the foundation for personal progression was embedded within this society.

What were your immediate reactions to being offered the position at Chester?

I was delighted! The university has a tremendous reputation and was my first choice for employment upon leaving the army.

Chester has a centre focusing on veterans' well-being; is military health something that more academic institutions should be looking at? Is there enough scholarly research in the field?

The UK military community is estimated at 10 million, with veterans comprising 2.8 million. All universities have members of the veteran population in their catchment area, and can take a proactive lead in supporting them. There is plenty of scope for more research.

Do mental health issues in the armed forces manifest themselves differently in separate conflicts?

There are usually mental health implications associated with an operational tour. For the majority in a volunteer force, the deployment is the reason they signed up, and they report personal growth. However, exposure to a traumatic event can cause distressing mental health symptoms irrespective of the theatre of operations.

Of your various tours, which appeared to be the toughest region/experience for soldiers to cope with mentally?

Each tour presents different challenges. The Airborne Brigade troops that deployed to Rwanda in 1994 were unprepared for the humanitarian catastrophe they faced, while aspects of the Balkans conflict were also very testing. For each soldier, it depends on what they personally experience: what is an exhilarating deployment for one can be devastating for another. …

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