Mental health, help seeking, and stigma and barriers to care among 3- and 12-month postdeployed and never deployed U.S. Army Combat Medics

Paula L Chapman, Christine Elnitsky, Barbara Pitts, Charles Figley, Ryan M Thurman, Brian Unwin
Military Medicine 2014, 179 (8 Suppl): 55-62
U.S. Army Combat Medic serves as both Soldier and provider of combat casualty care, often in the heat of battle and with limited resources. Yet little is known about their help-seeking behavior and perceived stigma and barriers to care. Participants were three groups of U.S. Army Combat Medics surveyed at 3- and 12-months postdeployment from assignment with line units vs. those Medics who had never deployed to combat. The primary data source was surveys of mental health service utilization, perceived stigma and barriers to care, and depression and post-traumatic stress disorder screens. Medics who received help in the past year from a mental health professional ranged from 18% to 30%, with 18% to 30% seeking mental health assistance from other sources. Previously deployed Medics were more likely to obtain assistance than those who never deployed. Those meeting a mental health screening criteria were more likely to report associated stigma and barriers to care. Findings indicate that Medics in need of assistance report greater perceived barriers to mental health care, as well as stigma from seeking treatment, and that depression may be a salient issue for Medics. The longitudinal nature of the ongoing study will help determine the actual trajectory and onset of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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