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The Mental Health Status of California Veterans

April 27, 2016

Policy Brief

Authors: Linda Diem Tran, MPP, David Grant, PhD, May Aydin, PhD

Data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) from 2011–2013 showed approximately 90,000 veterans had mental health needs and 200,000 reported serious thoughts of suicide during the 12 months prior to participating in CHIS. Although the proportion of veterans reporting mental health need or serious psychological distress was no higher than the general population, California veterans were more  likely to report lifetime suicide ideation.

This policy brief uses CHIS data to examine the mental health status, needs, and barriers to care among veterans in California. Veterans were more likely to receive mental health or substance use treatment than nonveterans, yet three of four veterans with mental health needs received either inadequate or no mental health care. Integrating mental and physical health services, increasing access to care, retaining veterans who seek mental health treatment, and reducing stigma are among the strategies that might improve the mental health of California’s veterans.

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