What are Soldiers’ Attitudes Toward Behavioural Health Profiles in the US Army?

Research Paper Title

Soldier Attitudes Toward Behavioural Health Profiles in the US Army.

Background

Behavioural health (BH) readiness is a critical component of US Army personnel readiness.

Medical providers issue BH profiles in order to communicate BH-related duty limitations to the commander and reflect BH force readiness on both micro/macro-levels.

A recent report indicates BH profile underutilisation may be significantly elevating US Army safety and mission-failure risks, and a study of BH provider decision-making suggests some providers may be hesitant to use profiles due to concerns that soldiers’ attitudes toward BH profiles may negatively impact treatment utilisation.

This potential link, however, has not been empirically examined.

This study addresses this gap by assessing soldiers’ attitudes towards BH profiles to better understand how BH profiles may impact treatment utilisation and explore for any BH profile-related stigma effect.

Methods

Approved by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) Institutional Review Board as part of the Land Combat Study II, the survey specific to this study included eight WRAIR-developed items assessing soldier attitudes toward BH profiles.

Soldiers (N = 1,043) from two active duty US Army brigades completed cross-sectional, anonymous surveys in 2017-2018.

Soldier self-reported BH care utilisation was assessed and used to create sub-groups for analysis.

Results

A majority of soldiers indicated that being placed on a BH profile would make them as or more likely to seek (71%) and no more or less likely to drop out (84%) of BH care.

Among soldiers who had received BH care, BH profiles were associated with more favourable treatment seeking attitudes among those inclined to access conventional BH services and less favourable treatment seeking and maintenance attitudes among those inclined to access BH services from sources incapable of issuing profiles.

Negative attitudes towards BH profiles were significantly more prevalent when compared to physical injury profiles, except in the group who had received BH care from a source incapable of issuing a profile. No significant proportional differences were observed among soldiers toward the rationale for BH profiles.

Almost all soldiers (95% or greater) preferred their BH condition not come to the commander’s attention during pre-deployment screening (SRP), choosing either BH profile or crisis options instead.

Conclusions

Results suggest soldiers who would be less likely to seek or more likely to drop out of BH care due to a BH profile may be those that are less likely to access conventional BH services in the first place. This may provide some preliminary reassurance to conventional providers that increased BH profiling practices may not be inversely proportional to the amount of BH care delivered and may encourage treatment-seeking behaviours among the population they serve.

Soldiers seeking BH care from sources incapable of issuing a profile may be sensitive to a potential BH profile-related stigma effect (possibly more global profile-related effect in this group), which should be factored into policy outreach efforts.

A BH profile represents a more palatable BH duty limitation disclosure option for many soldiers, and supports the merits of a disclosure process that is earlier than SRP for promoting risk mitigation and more honest appraisals of BH mission-readiness levels.

Reference

Curley, J.M., McDonald, J.L., Nugent, K.L., Clarke-Walper, K.M., PEnix, E.A., Riviere, L.A., Kim, P.Y. & Wilk, J.E. (2020) Soldier Attitudes Toward Behavioral Health Profiles in the US Army. Military Medicine. 185(1-2):84-91. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usz133.

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