Normative Rates of Depression, Suicide and Well-Being for Military and Nonmilitary
Methods: Data from the 2011 California Healthy Kids Survey were used to examine four assessments (suicidal ideation, feeling sad/hopeless, positive affect, negative affect) of mental stress by military connectedness among a subsample (N=14,931) of 7th, 9th and 11th grade California adolescents. Cross-classification tables and multiple logistic regression were utilized.
Results: Military-connected youth were more likely to be older and identify as Asian or Hispanic. Nonmilitary affiliated youth were significantly less likely to report feeling sad/hopeless in the last two weeks (X2=7.91, p<0.05) or report suicidal ideation (X2=25.1, p<0.0001) as compared to their military-connected counterparts. In regression models, while military connectedness was not associated with feeling sad or having thoughts of suicidal ideation, number of deployments increased mental stress both in the single-item measures(suicide 1.17; CI 1.07-1.27 and sad/hopeless 1.26; CI1.18-1.34) and the negative affect scale (1.18; CI 1.11-1.26).
Conclusions: This study is one of few to use a normative sample to explore the mental health of military-connected adolescents. Training for mental health providers, both in school and clinical settings, must be bolstered to increase understanding of the unique needs of military-connected children. This may be particularly important given the number of families who utilize healthcare providers outside of a military-specific setting, specifically families of Reservists and National Guard. Early detection of potential mental health stressors allows for early intervention, reducing long-term and severe outcomes. Coupled with this, mental health needs should be supported through development of a systematic referral systems and collaboration with community based mental health centers.