08 March 2019

Mental health help becoming less of a stigma in military

In the US military there has been a fundamental shift regarding attitudes on mental health.

Active-duty members of the US military are much more open to the idea of mental health counselling than veterans, a new survey finds.

"There has been a fundamental shift in the military regarding attitudes on mental health, and we have seen real progress in reducing the stigmas associated with professional counselling," said survey author Samantha Dutton. She is programme director in the College of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Phoenix.

Veterans retain old stereotypes

"However, for veterans, that has not translated into a shift in the perception of mental health. Many of our veterans served in a culture where talking about your feelings or seeking help was not widely accepted," she added in a university news release.

The recently released survey results bear that out: More than 90% of all veterans and active-duty service members said mental health is as important as physical health. But only 30% of veterans have sought or considered mental health counselling, compared with 72% of active-duty service members.

This difference may be because veterans retain old stereotypes and stigmas associated with mental health counselling, the researchers noted.

Importance of dealing with concerns

The survey also found that 89% of active-duty military members believe people who receive professional counselling generally get somewhat or a lot better, compared with 66% of veterans.

In addition, 91% of active-duty service members say their leaders openly discuss the importance of dealing with mental health concerns, while only 23% of veterans say that their leaders did so.

When veterans were asked what resources they would use to manage mental health, free counselling was the most common response (39%).

Fifty-eight percent of veterans said they would be encouraged to seek mental health counselling if a close colleague, friend or family member discussed their experiences receiving counselling.

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