Mental Health Needs of Military Wives

By Rachel Dorman, MS & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Overcoming stigma and barriers to seeking mental health treatment is not an uncommon issue for military members and their families. Identifying barriers can help shed light on strategies needed to overcome such obstacles and how to provide care for those who need it. In today’s blog we are going to learning more about barriers military wives encounter when seeking mental health treatment.

Military personnel and spouse
[Flickr, 136th MEB Mobilization Ceremony by Texas Military Forces, CC By-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
Lewy, Oliver, and McFarland (2014) conducted a study to learn more about military wives, their mental health needs, and barriers they may have to seeking mental health treatment. The study consisted of 569 female participants who completed an online survey. The survey examined depressive symptoms, nonspecific psychological distress, and barriers to obtaining mental health services. The study found that over half (51%) of the participants reported high levels of depressive symptoms, and another 27% indicated depressive symptoms, but at a lower level. The study also found that 37% of the wives surveyed reported serious psychological distress, and 44% did not receive the mental health treatment they felt they needed (higher than the general population). Those who were older and higher levels of distress were more likely not to get needed treatment.

The most common barrier to seeking mental health treatment was finding time during the day to attend treatment (38%). Other barriers commonly mentioned included fears that the treatment would not be confidential (26%), concerns about how others in the community might perceive the treatment (19%), lack of knowledge of where to go for treatment (25%) and concerns about cost (19%). Over a third of military wives, 35%, reported concern that mental health providers would not understand the issues facing military spouses, and 29% expressed concerns about whether they could trust a therapist.

Military personnel hugging spouse
[Flickr, 136th MEB Mobilization Ceremony by Texas Military Forces, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015
The authors recommend that clinicians seek education regarding best practices for serving military service members and their families, including programs such as RESPECT-Mil. The researchers also highlight that, because social media was found to be an effective tool in reaching military wives for recruitment in this study, it might also be an effective means of providing information about mental health services. To learn more about helping individuals overcome barriers to seeking treatment check out our previous blog, Shifting the Stigma: Mental Health and the Military 

References

[1] Lewy, B., Oliver, C., & McFarland, B. (2014). Barriers to mental health treatment for military wives. Psychiatric Services, Brief Reports, p. 1 – 4. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201300325

This post was written by Rachel Dorman, M.S. and Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on TwitterYouTube, and on LinkedIn.

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