• Mental health risk factors and protective mechanisms for post-secondary educational attainment among young adult veterans

      Smith-Osborne, Alexa; DeForge, Bruce R.; Deal, Kathleen Holtz (2006)
      This exploratory study examines the impact of mental health status on post-secondary educational attainment among young veterans of the first Gulf War, and the associated protective and risk mechanisms. Investigation of mental health impact on post-service enrollment or successful reentry into higher education for this population has been limited. Drawing upon resiliency theory, life span/life course theory, and social geography theory, the author hypothesized that selected factors in the personal, interpersonal, and organizational domains could play mediating or moderating roles in the relationship between post-service psychiatric symptoms and level of educational attainment.;Data from the 2001 National Survey of Veterans (NSV) were analyzed. The sample included 2075 veterans: 349 females and 1726 males, 71% Caucasian and 29% minority, most of whom had served at least two consecutive years on active duty, almost half in a combat zone. Fifty-five percent of the veterans reported experiencing depressive symptoms in the past month, and thirteen percent had received mental health treatment in the past month. A series of regression analyses were performed to explore the hypothesized relationships. Treatment in the past year for psychiatric disorders was not associated with educational attainment as defined by highest grade ever completed (p = .935). However, a logistic regression analysis that examined college educational benefit use since leaving the military showed that the likelihood of a Gulf War veteran using VA educational benefits for postsecondary education was positively related to the use of non-VA sources of financial aid (p < .0005), and to being treated for PTSD in the past year (p = .001). The odds of a veteran who used non-VA financial aid of also using VA post-secondary educational benefits were 2.589 times greater than the odds for a veteran who did not. The odds of a veteran who was treated for PTSD in the past year of using those VA benefits were 2.138 times greater odds for veterans who were not treated. Protective mechanisms in the personal and organizational domains mediated the relationship between mental health status and educational attainment, while protective mechanisms in the interpersonal domain partially mediated this relationship.