The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Normative Rates of Depression, Suicide and Well-Being for Military and Nonmilitary

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 3:30 PM
Marina 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Cederbaum, MSW, MPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Tamika D. Gilreath, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Diana Pineda, MHA, MSW, LCSW, SD Field Project Manager and Adjunct Faculty, University of Southern California, San Diego, CA
Kris M. Tunac De Pedro, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Monica C. Esqueda, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Hazel Atuel, PhD, Research Assistant Professor & Program Manager for Building Capacity Consortium, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Purpose: Family conflict and unexpected life altering events can be disorienting and stressful to youth. Deployments are associated with behavior problems in general, and externalizing and internalizing behaviors, including stress disorders, conduct problems, and symptoms of ambiguous loss. Most studies emphasize that younger children with a deployed parent are at greater risk for developing mental health problems; there is scant survey research on the impact deployment has on adolescents’ mental health and no identified literature on the influence of having a military sibling on mental stress. To better understand the relationship between military connectedness and adolescent mental health, this study examines how military connectedness (parent and/or sibling) and deployment influence adolescent mental health.

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.