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2009 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

National Meeting 2009

3048 — Rates and Predictors of Mental Health Treatment Seeking among Iraq War National Guard Soldiers

Kehle SM (CCDOR, Minneapolis VAMC), Polusny MA (CCDOR, Minneapolis VAMC), Murdoch M (CCDOR, Minneapolis VAMC), Erbes C (Minneapolis VAMC), Arbisi PA (Minneapolis VAMC), Thuras P (Minneapolis VAMC), Reddy M (Minneapolis VAMC)

The goal of the current project was to identify rates and psychosocial determinants of mental health treatment seeking for PTSD among a cohort of OIF National Guard Soldiers.

Participants were a cohort of 423 National Guard soldiers who returned from a 16-month combat tour in Iraq in July 2007. Data used for the current analyses were collected via mailed self-report survey questionnaires that were administered approximately one-month prior to deployment to OIF and 3-6 months post-deployment. Self-reported use of psychiatric medications and mental health counseling were the primary outcome measures. Using the behavioral service utilization framework (Anderson, 1995; Anderson and Bartkus, 1973), predisposing (e.g. personality characteristics, pre-deployment mental health, combat experiences), enabling (e.g. stigma, attitudes regarding mental health treatment, in-theater use of mental health services, social support), and need (both perceived and observed symptoms of PTSD and depression) psychosocial factors were examined as determinants of mental health treatment seeking.

Since returning from Iraq, 34.6% of respondents reported that they had received any mental health services; 23% of the soldiers received counseling, 4.4% received medications, and 7.3% received both counseling and medications. Among soldiers who screened positive for PTSD, 49.2% had received treatment. Of those who screened positive for depression, 60% had received treatment. Preliminary correlational analyses suggested that post-deployment levels of both depression and PTSD were related to treatment seeking, as were attitudes regarding mental health treatment, post-deployment life stressors, in-theater injury, in-theater blast exposure, and combat exposure. Satisfaction with in-theater, mental health support combat aftermath experiences were uniquely related to medication treatment seeking. Following these preliminary analyses, we plan to use structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine the relationships between factors related to mental health treatment seeking.

Approximately one-third of OIF National Guard soldiers had received mental health treatment in the first 3-6 months after returning from Iraq. Preliminary analyses suggested that increased symptoms of depression and PTSD and in-theater injury were the factors most strongly related to treatment seeking.

This study provides initial information regarding psychosocial barriers and facilitators of mental health treatment seeking among OIF National Guard soldiers.

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