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Unique barriers to seeking mental health care while deployed: OEF/OIF servicewomen's perceptions and provider effects

Mengeling M, Booth BM, Torner J, Sadler AG. Unique barriers to seeking mental health care while deployed: OEF/OIF servicewomen's perceptions and provider effects. Poster session presented at: American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition; 2013 Nov 6; Boston, MA.


Deployed servicewomen report unique barriers and facilitators to mental health (MH) care. 665 Reserve/National Guard and 674 Active Component Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) era Midwestern servicewomen were stratified by deployment (never deployed, deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan (I/A), deployed elsewhere) and included 1.) Active Duty (79%)/ Veteran (21%); and 2.) Officers (29%)/ Enlisted (71%) personnel. Deployed participants were more likely to know where to receive MH counseling (93% v 85%, p < .001); believe MH prescriptions could interfere with their job performance (48% v 40%, p < .01); that they would be seen as weak (38% v 29%, p < .001); but less likely to believe their unit would lose confidence in them (49% v 35%, p < .002) if they sought MH care. Among those deployed, concerns about MH care confidentiality during deployment were common (50%). Half said they would informally talk with off-duty healthcare providers if they had a MH concern during deployment. Those who believed care would not remain confidential were more likely to endorse presenting a physical complaint to see a provider in order to bring up MH concerns (53% v 39%; p < .001). Deployed servicewomen endorsed methods of seeking care that may put deployed healthcare providers at high risk for burnout or secondary traumatization by endorsing indirect strategies to access health care providers for MH concerns. Deployed health care providers must be prepared to address both physical and mental health concerns of deployed servicewomen. Deployed healthcare providers may be a high risk population for burnout or secondary traumatization.

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