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Family members of Veterans with mental health problems: Seeking, finding, and accessing informal and formal supports during the military-to-civilian transition

Introduction: For some Canadian Armed Forces Veterans who are released, the military-to-civilian transition (MCT) process may be complicated by significant mental health problems (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety). Family members (i.e., spouses, adult children, parents) who serve as the primary caregivers for Veterans with mental health problems devote significant energy to seeking and finding social support as they navigate the MCT. Objectives: The primary purposes of this qualitative study were to 1) hear from these family members and learn about the obstacles to and successes in accessing formal and informal social supports during the MCT and 2) understand how accessing such supports was affected by the Veteran's mental health problems. Methods: A sequential, multiple qualitative design was used, involving both in-depth individual interviews and focus groups with English- and French-speaking family members (N =36) living in Eastern, Central, and Western Canada (i.e., individual, n = 27; focus groups, n = 9). Data coding was facilitated through the qualitative data analysis sot ware MAXQDA, and data analysis was conducted using grounded theory strategies. Results: Amid numerous indicators of significant resolve and commitment to health, family members revealed significant issues (e.g., mental health stigma of the Veteran, caregiver burden and burnout) that contributed to notable barriers in accessing both informal (i.e., extended family, friends, online support groups) and formal (i.e., Operational Stress Injury Social Support, Military Family Resource Centres) support systems helpful in navigating the MCT. Discussion: Results are discussed in the context of how the Veteran's mental health compounded barriers for family members who sought to access informal and formal support services that would provide comfort, financial aid, respite, and counsel to the Veteran family in the MCT. Conclusions: Building on the resilience of military-connected families, gaps in the systems of formal and informal care are discussed in the context of how bold and creative changes (e.g., proactive signposting) might facilitate the MCT for Veterans with mental health problems.

 

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
University of Toronto Press
ISBN/ISSN
2368-7924
Publication Year
2021
Issue Number
1
Journal Titles
Journal of Military, Veteran & Family Health
Volume Number
7
Start Page
21
End Page
34