What kind of mental health services do combat veterans need from the perspective of mental health professionals?

Purpose: Although stigma associated with serious mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and depression in combat veterans has been studied, little is known about mental health practitioners’ perspectives; nor is the possible impact these attitudes and perspectives may have on treatment engagement well understood. Research question: How do veterans seek treatment for mental health services from the perspective of mental health professionals? Methods: We enlisted ten mental health practitioners experienced in working with combat veterans to participate in two focus groups. We utilized qualitative methods to explore barriers to combat veterans seeking mental health treatment. Most participants reported veterans avoid treatment early on in their transition to civilian life from the military. Several themes emerged; a significant theme was the need for customized treatment for combat veterans. Participants described family treatment, recreational therapy, anxiety, depression, and PTSD support as treatment needed to support veteran’s recovery. Conclusions and implications for practice: Awareness of public stereotypes impacts help seeking in combat veterans transitioning out of the military. Peer-based outreach and therapy groups may help veterans engage in treatment early and resist stigma.