By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhDCreative Commons [Flickr, 120829-F-MQ656-368, August 29, 2012]In a recent article published in Military Medicine, researchers Chapman and colleagues compared the attitudes and behaviors toward help-seeking and stigma in a group of U.S. Army Combat Medics who had been deployed versus those who had not been deployed . The researchers hypothesized that combat medics with mental health care issues would be more likely to report more stigma and barriers to care than those who had not been identified as needing care.The study included 799 enlisted soldiers (E1 to E9) in the U.S. Army. Combat medics with combat-related physical injuries were excluded from the study. Participants were divided into three groups: (1) 347 medics surveyed 3 months after returning from a 12 month deployment; (2) 196 medics surveyed 12 months after their 12 month deployment; and, (3) 256 medics who had never been deployed. Participants in the study completed surveys measuring mental health care utilization, perceived stigma and barriers to care, and symptoms of PTSD and depression. Over one-half (62%) of the medics were E1-E4 with no leadership responsibilities, and 39% were classified as E5-E9 non-commissioned officers. Twenty-six percent of the participants were women. The majority (69%) of the population’s race/ethnicity identified as white, 16% identified as black, and 15% were classified as “other.”Approximately 18% to 30% of all combat medics sought care from a mental health care professional and an additional 18% to 30% sought help from someone other than a clinician, such as a physician, military chaplain, or other soldier. Combat medics who had been previously deployed were more likely to seek help for mental health care issues than those soldiers who had not deployed. Those who met the screening criteria for mental health problems were 2 to 3 times more likely to report issues with perceived stigma and barriers to care, with the exception of the question “I don’t know where to get help”. The most common issues related to the stigma of seeking mental health care varied by participant group as shown below:Combat medics who met screening criteria for psychological issues (117 participants):62% reported “my unit leadership might treat me differently”.53% endorsed “I would be seen as weak”.Combat medics who did not meet screening criteria for psychological issues (697 participants):36% endorsed “my unit leadership might treat me differently”.33% reported “members of my unit would have less confidence in me”.Seeking help for mental health care issues is an act of bravery. Overcoming the perceived stigma of seeking care, especially in light of the complexities of serving in dual roles as health care providers and warriors in the military, should be recognized when treating combat medics or other health and mental health care providers in a military setting.References Chapman, P. L., Elnitsky, C., Pitts, B., Figley, C., Thurman, R. M., & Unwin, B. (2014). Mental health, help seeking, and stigma and barriers to care among 3- and 12-month postdeployed and never deployed U.S. Army Combat Medics. Military Medicine, 179(8), 55-62. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00367This post was written by Jay Morse & 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 Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.