Jennings: The role of social support in seeking treatment and treatment retention in the military: Examining the function and source of support

The role of social support in seeking treatment and treatment retention in the military: Examining the function and source of support
Thesis Defense by Kristen Jennings
Friday, April 18th at 11:00 am
Brackett 414
Committee: Dr. Thomas Britt (chair), Dr. Bob Sinclair, Dr. Heidi Zinzow

Abstract:
Service members of the United States military occupy jobs that are unlike most in the exposure to exceptional stress and the potential for life-threatening and traumatic on-the-job experiences. Because of the nature of the job tasks and duties, many soldiers are vulnerable to developing mental health problems. Even more problematic, many soldiers experiencing mental health symptoms are not getting the treatment they need. The present study examined how social support can influence a soldier’s decision to engage in treatment and stay in treatment. More specifically, the study examined the unique influence of family and friends, fellow unit members, and leaders in the soldier’s decision to seek treatment, as well as different supportive behaviors from leaders that affect treatment seeking and retention. Using data from active duty soldiers surveyed at two time points, results indicated that support for treatment seeking is related to whether or not soldiers seek treatment through positively affecting their attitude toward treatment. Support from family members and friends was found to be most related to attitude and treatment decisions. These relationships were further moderated by functional impairment, where the effect of support on treatment seeking through attitude was strongest for those with problems causing low or moderate impairment. In terms of leader supportive behaviors, instrumental leader support was rated as the most influential to soldiers’ treatment decisions. Lastly, in terms of treatment retention, initial evidence was found that support from family members and spouses may influence whether or not soldiers drop out of treatment. Results from this study are intended to be informative for application in enhancing social support resources that are most effective for getting soldiers into treatment and increasing retention.

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