Mental Health After Military Sexual Trauma
VA is committed to understanding the health effects of military sexual trauma (MST) and providing resources for Veterans who have experienced it. MST is sexual harassment or sexual assault that happens during military service. It can happen to both men and women, and can continue to affect Veterans after they leave the military.
Since 2002, VA has conducted MST screening for all Veterans using VA health care. Among recent Veterans who responded to the “National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans” survey, including those who used VA health care and those who did not, 41% of women and 4% of men screened positive for MST.
Research on MST and mental health
VA conducted the “National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans” survey study of 20,563 Veterans, including those deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and non-deployed Veterans. Researchers looked at responses to MST clinical screening questions and compared the differences in depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among men and women with MST.
Overall, researchers found that men had a higher prevalence of mental health conditions compared to women. One reason may be that women are more likely to seek treatment for MST.
Those reporting MST also reported: Major or other depressive syndrome (Women: 27%, Men 35%), Anxiety (Women: 17%, Men 20%), Alcohol abuse (Women: 20%, Men 37%), PTSD (Women: 19%, Men 27%).
VA offers a variety of resources to help male and female Veterans who have experienced MST. The condition does not need to be service connected. Treatment is free and there are no time limits on eligibility. Veterans do not need to have reported an incident or have documentation that it happened.
- Learn about VA services and benefits for Veterans who have experienced MST, including treatment, recovery services, and other resources at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.
- An overview of all VA services can be found in the fact sheet “Quick Facts About VA’s Health Care Services for Military Sexual Trauma (MST),” available at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/mst/VA_Health_Care_Services_MST_May_2016.pdf (408 KB, PDF).
- For help with treatment and health care, ask to speak to the MST Coordinator at your local VA medical center. Some Vet Centers across the country also offer MST counseling. Find your local VA medical center or Vet Center at www.va.gov/directory/guide.
- Call VA’s general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000 for information on VA benefits.
- To learn about other research findings on MST in recent Veterans visit www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/new-generation/military-sexual-trauma-infographic.asp.
- Barth SK, Dursa EK, Bossarte RM, Schneiderman AI. Sex differences in recent mental health disorders among military sexual trauma victims using data from a national Veteran health survey. Poster session presented at: Women’s Health 2016: The 24th Annual Congress; 2016 April 16; Arlington, VA.
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