Abstract: Help Seeking Among Women Veteran Students within Postsecondary Educational Settings (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

156P Help Seeking Among Women Veteran Students within Postsecondary Educational Settings

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
David Albright, PhD, Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa,, AL
Kate Thomas, PhD, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Public Health, Charleston Southern University, North Charleston, SC
Justin McDaniel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL
Kari Fletcher, PhD, LICSW, Associate Professor, MSW Program Director, and Area of Emphasis in Military Practice (AEMP) Coordinator, University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, Saint Paul, MN
Kelli Godfrey, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Jessica Bertram, MSW, Student, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Caroline Angel, PhD, Director of Research, Team Red, White, and Blue
Intro and background: Although little, if any research yet supports mental health among women student veterans, it is presumed to plays an important role in their wellbeing. Students of all backgrounds and experiences face different challenges when entering higher education. Veterans and service members are not immune to these challenges and as a group face some specific obstacles that are unique to their own circumstances.

The purpose of this study was to assess help seeking among women veteran students within  postsecondary educational settings.

Methods: Data for the present cross-sectional study were obtained from the American College Health Association’ s (ACHA) 2011– 2014 National College Health Assessment II (NCHA). University Institutional Review Board approval was obtained prior to the analysis of the herein described data.

Results: Demographic characteristics of the study sample were explored by calculating frequencies and percentages by military service status. Data pertaining to these questions were analyzed with Fisher’ s exact.  determine if utilization of university/college mental health services differed by military service status among women students. Results showed that women students with military experience utilized university/college mental health services with less frequency (n. 111, 13.500%) than women students with no military experience (n. 11,961, 16.400%) between 2011 and 2014 (p. .024).

Another Fisher’ s exact test was conducted order to determine if perceived stigma against seeking mental health help from a professional was different between men and women service member and veteran students. Results showed that women (n. 217, 26.300%) were less likely than men (n. 574, 33.000%) to perceive stigma against seeking professional help for mental health problems (p. .001).

Discussion and implications: This study explored health outcomes in a national sample of women service member and veteran students enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Findings are useful for college campuses interested in understanding military women demographically. Specifically, women student veterans are older and more likely to be married than female students who had not served. This makes caregiving responsibilities a risk factor for academic program completion that is uniquely salient for student veteran women (Creech, Swift, Zlotnick, Taft, & Street, 2016). Veterans in the present study (male and female) were more likely than civilian students to report stigma against careseeking.

Though military women in the present study were less likely than male veterans to report perceived stigma against care-seeking for mental health and are in fact more likely than male peers to use services in the general veteran population, women student veterans were significantly less likely to use campus mental health services. These results indicate a gap in outreach; women student veterans do not seem to select campus mental health services to help them with elevated risks and challenges. The opportunity for college campuses to improve this is clear.