Accession Number:



Military Leaders' Use of Behavioral Health Resources: Barriers to Care and Possible Solutions

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Technical Report

Corporate Author:

Defense Personnel and Security Research Center Seaside United States

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Prior research indicates that military officers are less likely than enlisted personnel to seek mental or behavioral health support when such services would be beneficial e.g., when experiencing suicidal ideation or after a suicide attempt Ho et al., 2018 OPA, 2017. Barriers to behavioral health resource utilization in the military include public stigma, internalized self-stigma, concerns regarding peer and leader perceptions of work-related abilities, preference for self-reliance, negative attitudes toward behavioral health treatment, and operational barriers Britt et al., 2016 Greene-Shortridge, Britt, and Castro, 2007 Hines et al., 2014 Kim, Britt, Klocko, Riviere, and Adler, 2011 Nash, Silva, and Litz, 2009 Vogt, 2011. However, research is limited regarding the help-seeking experiences, barriers, and available resources for senior leaders, such as non-commissioned and commissioned officers. This report addresses this gap in the literature. Specifically, we interviewed 32 subject matter experts SMEs affiliated with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Results of SME interviews indicated that, although several behavioral health resources are available to officers, few are tailored specifically to the needs of officers. SME-identified barriers to officer help-seeking behavior were consistent with those previously described in military studies, but SMEs indicated that the concerns were heightened for senior leaders. Based on SME-identified solutions to address barriers, this study concludes with a list of recommendations for changes to the military behavioral health system and officer professional development as well as increases to spouse and family involvement in officer help-seeking and the creation of messaging campaigns targeted specifically to leaders and senior officers.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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