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How to Support Women Who Serve, Their Mental Health: Tips for Providers

Female soldier crawling under barbed wire.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerma

Women represent about 16 percent of our active-duty military force. As they continue to serve, it’s critical that clinicians are equipped to treat their psychological health concerns.

Deputy Director Dr. Kate McGraw of the Deployment Health Clinical Center has spent more than three decades working for the military. Much of her work has been dedicated to the psychological differences and needs of women in the military.

This excerpt from a Clinician’s Corner post, written by McGraw, highlights her perspective on the challenges military females face:

Our female warriors are brave, are dedicated to risking their lives to defend our country, and often juggle a whole lot of other responsibilities at the same time they’re performing their military duties. The problems they face can involve leadership acceptance, childcare, the biological impact of estrogen, societal role expectations, sexual harassment and assault, and ostracism by peers due to gender differences and can directly impact psychological health. Females appear to cope with combat-related stress as well as men, but they are more likely to experience higher rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment. They’re also more likely to be treated for depression than men, and appear less likely to endure negative impact from deployment if they experience strong social support pre and post-deployment compared to men.

While psychological health research may show us that over time in some situations women do things differently and respond to events differently than their male counterparts, different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different. Fortunately, we’re making forward progress; some of Defense Department health research is now focused on how to better understand and help military females with a variety of psychological issues, as well as how we can help the culture better support and respect differences amongst us. We also now have a standing Defense Department work group dedicated to supporting the mental health needs of women in the military, developed and implemented at the Deployment Health Clinical Center.

Read more about how clinicians can be more supportive to military females who seek treatment.

Comments (2)

  • Your article very academic....However
    ISIS is real world evidence.
    The Viet Nam war, in the jungle as
    well as the Hanoi Hilton. The invasion
    of North Korean to the south, not to
    forget the mental health issues in the
    the sub freezing mountains and the exposure to the "Brain washing" while
    in POW camps. Finally a study of the
    USS Liberty and the melt down of the
    crews mental health during the attack
    and till this day "Abandoment" felt by
    surviving sailors and their depedents.
    The "Labatory" is far removed from
    being on the other side of the wire.

    Retired USN, Lpc(Ga),LMHC(NY).

    war still has

  • Difference of gender pose women before situations, a phsycological one, of assaults that some of us, we consider not of us for the dishonor they create to our image and our honor, create to Army. Sexual
    assaults are posing women on a discriminating situation, on a situation of stress different by that we all, men and women serving on Army, are living on our actions, missions, acting, a stress, that due to our life, we love and have choiced our life for, being aware than stress signify our offering is high and our serving well concretized. A different one that create on women by some we are impossibilitate to define. That is the only real difference they live and cause them the need of particular cares, on phsycological and physiological terms, for our life, also if difference of gender may create peculiar problems, is equal and equal the problems , possible to be cared by the same caregiver. We sure are equal on act, on problem related to our life, on TBI, on PTSD on all other problems we daily live,problems that, also if that may appear strange to whom is not part of military family,have drove us us to the choiced we made and daily renew. What reallyu constitute a poblem are sexual assaults that pose women on a humiliating situation, also if who do such jests is humiliate by his action itself. The same humiliate us and our valors, us and our uniform that is not a vest but the willigness to serve we wear by our birth and is constitute by our skin, will, desire to be and act. Than the victims are more, also if concretely affected by a situation creating phsycological and physiological health problems are women, buddies we admire for their ability to offer themsefl for serve, sacrificing totally like us , buddies we ask forgiveness to for a situations created by who, we say again, may not be defined a warrior or has not on himself such nature, for our essence refuse such actions, for our essence is be warriors whose ethic code, creed, loyality are a only one, undivisable and high on honor .

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This page was last updated on: September 14, 2017.