Understanding the mental healthcare needs of female veterans and access to mental health care services within a veterans health care facility : a phenomenological case study.
Access to mental health care has become a significant issue among female veterans who served during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). These female veterans have a greater need for mental health services than male veterans. However, little research exists focusing on the mental health needs of OEF/OIF female veterans. When evaluated by mental health professionals, female veterans score higher on mental health screenings than males. With increases in the veteran female population, it is important to understand these veterans’ experiences accessing mental health care. The purpose of this phenomenological case study was to understand the barriers and access experiences to mental health care in veterans’ healthcare facilities for OEF/OIF female veterans. Feminist theory (Bean Mayberry et al., 2011) and Andersen’s (1995) behavioral model of health use provided the theoretical framework for this phenomenological case study. Little research focuses on female veterans and there is a need for current research on utilizing mental health care within a veterans’ health care facility. Data were collected using purposive criterion sampling of four female veterans who served during OEF/OIF, who self-identify as having a mental health illness, and who are eligible to receive mental healthcare at a hospital that serves veterans. The researcher conducted and recorded one 30–45-minute interview with each participant in this study via a virtual platform. The researcher examined all participants as a whole case before completing a thematic analysis to reveal common themes. The results from this study revealed the mental health care needs of female veterans are different from the needs of males and female veterans experience barriers to accessing mental health care at veteran healthcare facilities. During the analysis of the data from this study, the following themes emerged as barriers to mental health care: providers do not review medical records, male-veteran centered care, predominantly male mental health support groups, lack of female providers, quick turnover of providers, issues navigating the veterans’ healthcare system, and delays in scheduling appointments. Based on the results from this research study, the researcher provides implications and recommendations to improve access to mental health care for OEF/OIF female veterans.