- The goal of this research was to analyze what different types of perceived barriers affect student veterans' access to mental healthcare services. Previous research has shown that veterans who return from combat and later attend universities are not receiving adequate mental healthcare for mental health problems, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research is needed to assess and support student veterans by recognizing the barriers that they may encounter. This research aims to improve our understanding of the perceived barriers felt by student veterans on college campuses.
Participants were recruited through a Qualtrics panel of U.S. veterans and active duty military personnel who were enrolled in college. Participants completed several online surveys through Qualtrics which aimed to measure which perceived barriers to seeking mental health services were the most difficult and the severity of participants’ PTSD symptoms. The study was approved by an IRB and participants consented prior to participating. For perceived barriers, participants recorded responses to indicate how much they agreed based on a 5-point scale: strongly disagree (1), somewhat disagree (2), neither agree nor disagree (3), somewhat agree (4), and strongly agree (5). Scores were then combined to fit into two categories: does not agree (1-3), and agrees (4-5). A chi-square test was run for each barrier to analyze the relationship between the perceived barrier and whether the respondent had met screening criteria for PTSD.
Our findings indicated that student veterans are at an increased risk of mental health problems due to challenges in the perception of time and cost as opposed to social stigma, which was originally thought to be the largest barrier for students who do not seek mental healthcare. For example, the results showed that student-veterans reported higher barriers with getting time off of work to make an appointment, more than they reported it would be embarrassing or worrying that others may treat them differently for seeking mental healthcare. The implications for this study affect university campus resources. If the perceived barriers are “real,” (actual issues that form hurdles towards receiving care and not just perceived as problematic by the student-veteran) then universities must alter their system to make mental healthcare more accessible to students, possibly including better hours, broadening what is covered by insurance, and providing limited free sessions. If the barriers are only “perceived” barriers possibly stemming from lack of information, then universities should alter their outreach focus to address cost and availability by promoting their hours, providing instructions for how to make appointments, and clarifying the total cost of services.