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Veteran mental health in post deployment: Patterns of help-seeking among those with positive screens serious mental health challenges

Mengeling M, Booth BM, Smith J, Torner J, Sadler AG. Veteran mental health in post deployment: Patterns of help-seeking among those with positive screens serious mental health challenges. Paper presented at: American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition; 2015 Nov 2; Chicago, IL.


Background: Operations Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) Reserve and National Guard (RNG) service members have increased risk for post-deployment mental health (MH) and readjustment problems, yet most do not access needed care. The aims of this study were to compare post-deployed RNG service members self-appraisal of their post-deployment adjustment concerns ('How bothered or distressed are you about your current post-deployment concerns?') with results of web-based MH screenings, and self-reported post-deployment MH care use. Methods: Participants included Midwestern RNG service members (200 men/ 214 women), recently deployed (past 36 months). Participants completed 10 screens: depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), combat exposure, post-deployment family adjustment, intimate partner violence, alcohol abuse, traumatic brain injury (TBI), prescription drug misuse, and anger. Findings: Over half (57%) expressed concern about their post-deployment adjustment but < 20% sought MH care. Individuals most likely to have sought post-deployment MH care screened positive for PTSD, depression, or a TBI, not mutually exclusive. Those with PTSD, depression, or TBI and at least one other positive screen were more likely to seek MH care than those with PTSD, depression, or TBI but no other positive screens, and those without PTSD, depression, or TBI positive screens (55% vs. 38% vs. 18%, respectively, p < .0001). No statistically significant multivariate findings by gender. Implications: Service members may wait to seek post-deployment MH health care until their readjustment concerns affect multiple areas of their lives as evidenced by increasing numbers of positive screens. Men and women were similar in MH complexity, self-appraisal, and MH care use.

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