Objective: This study examined rates of utilization of mental health care among active duty and National Guard soldiers with mental health problems three and 12 months after they returned from combat in Iraq. Stigma and barriers to care were also reported for each component (active duty and National Guard).
Methods: Cross-sectional, anonymous surveys were administered to 10,386 soldiers across both time points and components. Mean scores from 11 items measuring stigma and barriers to care were computed. Service utilization was assessed by asking soldiers whether they had received services for a mental health problem from a mental health professional, a medical doctor, or the Department of Veterans Affairs in the past month. Risk of mental problems was measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire, the PTSD Checklist, and items asking about aggressive behaviors and "stress, emotional, alcohol, or family" problems within the past month.
Results: A higher proportion of active duty soldiers than National Guard soldiers reported at least one type of mental health problem at both three months (45% versus 33%) and 12 months (44% versus 35%) postdeployment. Among soldiers with mental health problems, National Guard soldiers reported significantly higher rates of mental health care utilization 12 months after deployment, compared with active duty soldiers (27% versus 13%). Mean stigma scores were higher among active duty soldiers than among National Guard soldiers.
Conclusions: Active duty soldiers with a mental health problem had significantly lower rates of service utilization than National Guard soldiers and significantly higher endorsements of stigma. Current and future efforts to improve care for veterans should work toward reducing the stigma of receiving mental health care.