Mental health service utilization in depressed Canadian Armed Forces personnel
Authors: François L. Thériault, Bryan G. Garber, Franco Momoli, William Gardner, Mark A. Zamorski, and Ian Colman
Background: Major depression is prevalent, impactful, and treatable in military populations, but not all depressed personnel seek professional care in a given year. Care-seeking patterns (including the use of primary vs. specialty care) and factors associated with the likelihood of mental health service utilization in depressed military personnel are poorly understood. Methods: Our sample included 520 Regular Force respondents to the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey. All study participants had past-year major depression. Subjects reported whether they had spoken about their mental health with at least one health professional in the past 12 months. We used multivariate Poisson regression to explore factors associated with past-year mental health service use. Results: Three-quarters of Canadian military personnel with past-year depression had sought mental health care in the previous 12 months. Among care-seeking personnel, 70% had seen a psychologist or psychiatrist, while 5% had exclusively received care from a primary care physician. Belief in the effectiveness of mental health care was the factor most strongly associated with care seeking. Female gender, functional impairments, and psychiatric comorbidities were also associated with care seeking. Surprisingly, stigma perceptions had no independent association with care seeking. Conclusions: The proportion of depressed Canadian Armed Forces personnel who seek professional care and who access specialty mental health care is higher than in most other populations. However, an important minority of patients are not accessing health services. Efforts to further increase mental health service utilization in the Canadian military should continue to target beliefs about the effectiveness of mental health care.
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