- Compared to men, women veterans are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder (31% v. 20%).
- Additionally, Women Veterans are significantly more likely to have a diagnosis of depression.
- The unique challenges women face during their military service can greatly complicate their transition to civilian life and make them feel isolated and invisible even among the veteran community.
You might say that I am a huge advocate or cheerleader for improving Women Veterans WellCare. I come from a family where both my Mom and Dad wore combat boots in the Army during WWII. More accurately, my Mom, Private Anne Miller served in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). That coupled with my own 26 year experience in the US Army give me a unique perspective.
Unfortunately, Veteran and Active Service Women face unique challenges:
- Higher rates of depressive disorders, anxiety and general psychological distress
- Impacts to their functional status
- There are changes in rates of MH problems across the life-span for women
- Relationship to puberty • Pregnancy • Menopause
Mental Health and Women Veterans
Compared to men, women veterans are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder (31% v. 20%). Additionally, Women Veterans are significantly more likely to have a diagnosis of:
- Other Anxiety Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Some Personality Disorders
Military Women Unique Stressors:
- Combat Stress: Women less likely to report direct combat exposure but more likely to report handling human remains (38% v. 29% for men)
- Stress of minority status for women in the Military
- Pre-military Trauma
- 40% of military parents have children under 5
- Military mothers more likely to be single, under 25, and lower SES
- Interpersonal violence
Intimate Partner Violence
- Women Veterans experience a higher rate of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) than non-veteran women
- Military women are more likely to be married to or partnered with another soldier, increasing the stress and risk of IPV
- The isolation and other elements of military culture may prolong the problem
- IPV is associated with health risk behaviors
Sexual Trauma and Women Veterans
- Women who enlist in the military have higher rates of childhood victimization (as high as 50% for Childhood Sexual Assault)
- Early victimization increases the risk of subsequent victimization
- Women are at risk for sexual trauma during military service (approximately 23% report Military Sexual Trauma)
- Sexual Harassment during military service is reported by the majority of women Veterans and may be a chronic stressor that increases risk for other mental health conditions
- Homelessness is a significant risk factor for victimization among women Veterans
- All of these experiences are associated with poorer health.
So, I find it refreshing when I can applaud the VA and pass on some encouraging news for my Sisters in Arms. The Military Sisterhood Initiative (MSI), a free social platform that connects women Veterans to a national peer support community, was launched in February 2020.
The unique challenges women face during their military service can greatly complicate their transition to civilian life and make them feel isolated and invisible even among the veteran community. “MSI is a safe place for women veterans to connect with each other and to reclaim a sense of purpose and belonging in a community of military sisters,” explains Maggie Tolan, Program Director of Challenge America.
“The goal of MSI is to create a network of women Veterans and resources that can help fill the gaps that so many of our sisters in the military are experiencing,” said Zaneta Adams, co-founder of MSI. “We also want to provide an opportunity for women Veterans to come together to advocate for improvements in their community.”
Led by Challenge America, MSI was designed by and for military women, starting with an all-women Veteran summit held in Snowmass, Colo., in December 2017.
As part of its fall 2019 Challenge America: Makers For Veterans (CAMVETS) program, Challenge America partnered with Acumen Solutions, a global consultancy in cloud technology, to field a team of software consultants to design the MSI community platform. The result is a platform unlike any other: a private network that supports social media-style posts, online courses and webinars, event calendars, blog posts, direct messaging, virtual peer support circles, and sub-groups by location and branch of service.
In the MSI Community, members are able to:
- Create a profile and connect with other military sisters near them or across the country to build one-on-one relationships.
- Ask for help when they need it and offer support to their sisters in need.
- Engage in discussions around different monthly topics and weekly challenges.
- Post and find events, resources and stories relevant to women Veteran growth and empowerment.
Women Veterans can join MSI today by visiting www.militarysisterhoodinitiative.org and clicking “Request to Join.”