Many military members shy away from counseling because of the stigma attached to it as being weak, however, we know that seeking help is a sign of strength. All veterans may experience challenges, but women in the military face unique experiences from their male counterparts. Women face concerns related to gender inequality for career options, sexism from fellow service members, partner relationship issues, family planning concerns, and higher risk for sexual trauma. These concerns can easily lead to various mental health disorders to include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Intimate partner and domestic violence
- Mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse (using alcohol or drugs)
The Story of Women Veterans:
- Women have formally been a part of the U.S. Armed Forces since the inception of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901, but have informally served since the inception of our nation’s military.
- More than 2 million female Veterans live in the United States, making up about 10% of the total Veteran population.
- In 2009, African American women were overrepresented in the military making-up 19% of women Veterans, compared with 12% of non-Veteran women. In contrast, the percentage of women Veterans who were Hispanic was half that of non-Veterans (7 percent compared with 14 percent).
- In 2009, 23% of all women Veterans were currently divorced compared with 12% of the general female population.
- In the armed forces as a whole, a slightly greater proportion of women than men are commissioned officers (17% vs. 15%, respectively). This advantage largely plays out in the Army, where 18% of women are commissioned officers, compared with 13% of men. The proportions of commissioned officers among men and women are equal in the Air Force and Navy, and nearly equal in the Marine Corps (9% vs. 10% of men).
Women Veterans and Mental Health
- Thirty-seven percent (37%) of all women Veteran used outpatient mental health service in 2009.
- Younger women were more likely to seek mental health care. Forty-one percent of 18 to 44 year olds, 39 percent of 45 to 64 year olds, and 18 percent of women 65 years and older used mental health services in 2009.
- Recent research shows that about 25 to 30 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of a mental disorder.
- The top three conditions reported by women veterans are (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), lower back pain, and migraines) accounting for 15% of all service-connected disabilities for women.
- The VA’s national screening program indicated that 25% of women responded that they experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) during their military service.
- According to the same study, 55% of women reported having experienced sexual harassment during their military service.
- The reported MSTs were 95% women.
- Disabled Veterans have higher poverty rates than the disabled general population for all age groups except over age 65.
- Nearly 80% of homeless veterans suffer from mental health disorders, drug and/or alcohol abuse, or co-occurring disorders.