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Study Reviews Mental Health Treatment Seeking among OIF National Guard Soldiers


  • Approximately one-third of 424 OIF National Guard soldiers in this study reported post-deployment mental health treatment through military, VA, or other sources; however, 51% of soldiers who screened positive for PTSD and 40% who screened positive for depression did not report involvement in mental health treatment.
  • Of the 34.7% who reported receiving mental health services, 22.9% had received psychotherapy only, 4.5% received psychiatric medications only, and 7.3% had received both.
  • Reported treatment-seeking was more common among soldiers who screened positive for either PTSD or depression.
  • Injury in-theater, illness-based need (e.g. presence and severity of mental illness), and mental health treatment in-theater were significantly associated with both self-reported psychotherapy and medication treatment-seeking.
  • More positive attitudes regarding mental health treatment were associated with greater reported utilization of both psychotherapy and medication.
  • Findings indicate that while concerns about stigma were present, they were not associated with reported treatment-seeking behavior.

Other investigators have reported that only 23% to 40% of OEF/OIF troops who screened positive for PTSD, depression, or generalized anxiety received potentially needed mental health care within three to four months post-deployment. However, it is unclear whether findings from largely active duty samples extrapolate to National Guard and Reserve units. This study sought to determine the rate of reported mental health treatment-seeking in 424 returning OIF National Guard soldiers - and to examine potential barriers to and facilitators of treatment-seeking. All soldiers in this study were part of one National Guard brigade. Investigators analyzed data from self-report surveys mailed to study participants three to six months after they returned from a mean of 16.3 months of deployment. The main outcome measure was mental health treatment-seeking, which included military, VA and other psychotherapy and psychopharmacotherapy since returning from Iraq. Other variables assessed were: overall perceived health, combat experiences and perceived threat, thoughts and beliefs about seeking mental health services, and perceived barriers to and stigma related to treatment.


  • Results are based on self-report and are limited to one National Guard brigade of 2600 individuals, of whom only 16.3% participated in the study.

Drs. Kehle, Polusny, and Murdoch are part of HSR&D's Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research in Minneapolis, MN.

PubMed Logo Kehle S, Polusny M, Murdoch M, et al. Early Mental Health Treatment-Seeking Among U.S. National Guard Soldiers Deployed to Iraq. Journal of Traumatic Stress February 2010;23(1):33-40.

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HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.