Bartender, Another Round of Mental Health Please!

Research Paper Title

The Healing Tonic: A Pilot Study of the Perceived Ability and Potential of Bartenders.


Identifying and assisting veterans in need of mental health services has been and continues to be a challenge for veteran-specific health care providers.  Despite increased outreach efforts, many veterans remain on the periphery of such programmes and fail to receive necessary services.


The purpose of this pilot study was to explore an innovative avenue to help locate and connect veterans with mental health services.  Specifically, the researchers explored the perceived ability and potential of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) bartenders to identify veteran patrons with mental health issues and to link them with services.


Quantitative surveys were mailed to 300 randomly selected VFW posts.  Seventy-one (N = 71) bartenders from 32 posts completed self-administered surveys probing their relationships with veteran patrons, their helping experiences, and their potential to serve as gatekeepers to services provided through the Veterans Health Administration.


Bartenders reported close, family-like relationships with the veterans and indicated that veterans shared their problems quite often.  In response, bartenders utilised a variety of supportive helping techniques.  While lacking confidence in being able to recognise symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bartenders reported that they wanted to learn more and were willing to try to link veterans with services.


Results from this study suggest that VFW bartenders may have the potential to provide valuable support.


The mental health and well-being of veterans has been and continues to be a primary concern and focal point for providers and policy-makers.  Veterans, in particular those who have seen combat, have been found to have an elevated prevalence of mental health problems, most notably depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans with mental health issues such as depression have also been found to have an exponentially higher suicide rate than that of the general population.

Despite efforts to assist veterans with mental health concerns, many veterans continue to go untreated and available healthcare resources are under-utilised, resulting in untold costs to individuals, families and society.  New approaches are needed to help connect these veterans with mental health services and to prevent individuals from ‘slipping through the cracks’.  In the current study, the researchers explored a novel approach to identify veterans at risk and refer them to formal systems of care.   Specifically, bartenders at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts were examined in terms of their perceived ability and potential to help veterans exhibiting symptoms of mental illness.

The findings from this study are important, as VFW bartenders may be able to play a key health promotion role for veterans in need.

Source: Fisher, L.G., Maile, J.J. & Anderson, K.A. (2010)  The Healing Tonic: A Pilot Study of the Perceived Ability and Potential of Bartenders. Journal of Military and Veteran’s Health. 18(4), pp.


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