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1.
J Psychiatr Res ; 163: 386-390, 2023 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2327721

ABSTRACT

Research has demonstrated that the impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the mental health of United States (U.S.) veterans was less negative than originally anticipated. However, U.S. veterans are susceptible to exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology in late life. The aims of this study were to examine the extent to which older U.S. veterans experienced an exacerbation of PTSD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to identify pre- and peri-pandemic factors that conferred risk for symptom exacerbation. Participants were U.S. military veterans aged 60 and older who completed three waves of the 2019-2022 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS) (n=1858). PTSD symptoms were measured at all waves using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, and a latent growth mixture model was conducted to compute latent slopes of change of PTSD symptoms over the 3-year period. 159 (8.3%) participants experienced a worsening of PTSD symptomology over the pandemic period. Factors related to PTSD exacerbation were incident trauma exposure between Waves 1 and 2, more medical conditions with onset prior to the pandemic, and peri-pandemic social restriction stress. Number of incident traumas moderated the relationship between both number of pre-pandemic medical conditions and pre-pandemic social connectedness, and exacerbated PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that the pandemic did not confer additional risk for PTSD exacerbation than would be expected over a 3-year period for older veterans. Those who experience incident trauma exposure should be monitored for symptom exacerbation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Humans , United States/epidemiology , Middle Aged , Aged , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology , Veterans/psychology , Pandemics , Symptom Flare Up , COVID-19/epidemiology
2.
Soc Work ; 68(3): 230-239, 2023 06 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2316236

ABSTRACT

Social work turnover from the emotional overload of providing care during the pandemic has created staff shortages and exposed many gaps in service delivery. Those social workers who sustained employment during this pandemic are asked to take on flexible/additional roles to fill in those gaps in services to their most vulnerable clients. This qualitative study (N = 12) of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inpatient social workers at two sites across the country assesses their experiences of taking on additional roles at their respective VA facility. Three research questions were addressed to the participants: (1) Describe your roles and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic? (2) How did those responsibilities change/evolve over time? and (3) Did you receive training for your new roles or tasks? Thematic analysis revealed six themes that would facilitate effectiveness and continuity of care: (1) recognizing insufficient training to handle a pandemic, (2) meeting the demand for care, (3) responding to unexpected aspects of flexibility, (4) adjusting to new roles over time, (5) adaptation and support, and (6) additional resources to simplify efforts. With COVID rates stabilizing across much of the United States, now is the time to implement trainings and education about job flexibility in the future instance of a pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , United States/epidemiology , Social Workers , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Veterans/psychology , Health Personnel/psychology , Social Work
3.
PLoS One ; 18(4): e0283633, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2295900

ABSTRACT

IMPORTANCE: United States Veterans are at higher risk for suicide than non-Veterans. Veterans in rural areas are at higher risk than their urban counterparts. The coronavirus pandemic intensified risk factors for suicide, especially in rural areas. OBJECTIVE: To examine associations between Veterans Health Administration's (VA's) universal suicide risk screening, implemented November 2020, and likelihood of Veterans being screened, and receiving follow-up evaluations, as well as post-screening suicidal behavior among patients who used VA mental health services in 2019. METHODS: VA's Suicide Risk Identification Strategy (Risk ID), implemented October 2018, is a national, standardized process for suicide risk screening and evaluation. In November 2020, VA expanded Risk ID, requiring annual universal suicide screening. As such, we are evaluating outcomes of interest before and after the start of the policy among Veterans who had ≥1 VA mental health care visit in 2019 (n = 1,654,180; rural n = 485,592, urban n = 1,168,588). Regression-adjusted outcomes were compared 6 months pre-universal screening and 6, 12 and 13 months post-universal screening implementation. MEASURES: Item-9 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (I-9, VA's historic suicide screener), Columbia- Suicide Severity Risk Scale (C-SSRS) Screener, VA's Comprehensive Suicide Risk Evaluation (CSRE), and Suicide Behavior and Overdose Report (SBOR). RESULTS: 12 months post-universal screening implementation, 1.3 million Veterans (80% of the study cohort) were screened or evaluated for suicide risk, with 91% the sub-cohort who had at least one mental health visit in the 12 months post-universal screening implementation period were screened or evaluated. At least 20% of the study cohort was screened outside of mental health care settings. Among Veterans with positive screens, 80% received follow-up CSREs. Covariate-adjusted models indicated that an additional 89,160 Veterans were screened per month via the C-SSRS and an additional 30,106 Veterans/month screened via either C-SSRS or I-9 post-universal screening implementation. Compared to their urban counterparts, 7,720 additional rural Veterans/month were screened via the C-SSRS and 9,226 additional rural Veterans/month were screened via either the C-SSRS or I-9. CONCLUSION: VA's universal screening requirement via VA's Risk ID program increased screening for suicide risk among Veterans with mental health care needs. A universal approach to screening may be particularly advantageous for rural Veterans, who are typically at higher risk for suicide but have fewer interactions with the health care system, particularly within specialty care settings, due to higher barriers to accessing care. Insights from this program offer valuable insights for health systems nationwide.


Subject(s)
Suicide , Veterans , Humans , United States , Mental Health , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Suicide/psychology , Veterans/psychology , Veterans Health , Disease Susceptibility
4.
Mil Psychol ; 35(3): 245-251, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2304890

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound mental and behavioral health implications for the general U.S. population. However, little is known regarding outcomes for U.S. veterans, who represent a population with high rates of depression, stress, and e-cigarette use. One month prior to the pandemic-related closures (February 2020), 1230 OEF/OIF veterans (ages 18-40) completed an online baseline survey. Six months later, participants completed a follow-up survey (83% retention rate). Hierarchical negative binomial regressions were used to examine the relationship between baseline depression and past 30-day e-cigarette use at follow-up and whether baseline stress moderated this relationship. Veterans who screened positive for depression or who endorsed higher stress levels reported greater e-cigarette use at follow-up. Stress also moderated the relationship between depression and e-cigarette use, such that regardless of stress levels, a positive depression screen was associated with greater rates of later e-cigarette use. However, for those with a negative depression screen, higher stress levels were associated with greater e-cigarette use relative to lower stress levels. Veterans with pre-pandemic depression and stress may be at highest risk for e-cigarette use. Ongoing assessment and treatment for depression and promoting stress management skills for veterans in e-cigarette use prevention and intervention programs may be valuable.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Vaping , Veterans , Humans , Adolescent , Young Adult , Adult , Veterans/psychology , Depression/epidemiology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology
5.
Womens Health Issues ; 33(3): 250-257, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2253210

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: Mental health symptoms and substance use increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and women may be disproportionately affected. Women report substantial mental health consequences, and women veterans may experience additional risks associated with military service. However, rates and correlates of substance use and consequences among women veterans are largely unknown. This study aimed to 1) report rates of substance use and consequences among women veterans; 2) identify correlates of substance use and consequences; and 3) test COVID-specific anxiety as a moderator. METHOD: Women veterans (n = 209) enrolled in Veterans Health Administration primary care completed measures of demographics, psychiatric and substance use disorder (SUD) diagnoses, current mental health symptoms, alcohol consumption, drug-related problems, and COVID-specific anxiety. Bivariate correlations evaluated demographics (age, race, employment, relationship status), psychiatric (depression/anxiety/posttraumatic stress disorder) and SUD diagnoses, and current mental health (depression/anxiety) symptoms as correlates of substance use outcomes. For any relationships between correlates and outcomes that were statistically significant, COVID-specific anxiety was tested as a moderator using the PROCESS macro in SPSS version 27. Any statistically significant moderation effects were further investigated using the PROCESS macro to estimate conditional effects. COVID-specific anxiety was mean-centered before analyses. Alpha was set to 0.05 for all statistical tests. RESULTS: Thirty-six percent screened positive for hazardous (Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test-Consumption [AUDIT-C] ≥ 3) alcohol consumption and 26% reported drug-related problems (18% low-level, 7% moderate-level, and 2% substantial per Drug Abuse Screening Test [DAST-10] scores). Drug-related problems were positively associated with COVID-specific anxiety, psychiatric diagnosis, SUD diagnosis, and depression symptoms. Alcohol consumption was significantly associated with SUD diagnosis. COVID-specific anxiety significantly moderated relationships between SUD diagnosis and both outcomes. DISCUSSION: Results help identify women veterans with SUD diagnoses and high COVID-specific anxiety as at risk for increased substance use during COVID-19 and suggest a potential intervention target (COVID-specific anxiety).


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Substance-Related Disorders , Veterans , Humans , Female , Veterans/psychology , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Substance-Related Disorders/complications , Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology , Substance-Related Disorders/psychology , Anxiety/epidemiology
6.
BMC Psychiatry ; 23(1): 188, 2023 03 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2262138

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 has negatively impacted the mental health and well-being of both Canadians and the world as a whole, with Veterans, in particular, showing increased rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Spouses and common-law partners often serve as primary caregivers and sources of support for Veterans, which may have a deleterious effect on mental health and increase risk of burnout. Pandemic related stressors may increase burden and further exacerbate distress; yet the effect of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of Veterans' spouses is currently unknown. This study explores the self-reported mental health and well-being of a group of spouses of Canadian Armed Forces Veterans and their adoption of new ways to access healthcare remotely (telehealth), using baseline data from an ongoing longitudinal survey. METHODS: Between July 2020 and February 2021, 365 spouses of Veterans completed an online survey regarding their general mental health, lifestyle changes, and experiences relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also completed were questions relating to their use of and satisfaction with health-care treatment services during the pandemic. RESULTS: Reported rates of probable major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and PTSD were higher than the general public, with 50-61% believing their symptoms either directly related to or were made worse by the pandemic. Those reporting being exposed to COVID-19 were found to have significantly higher absolute scores on mental health measures than those reporting no exposure. Over 56% reported using telehealth during the pandemic, with over 70% stating they would continue its use post-pandemic. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first Canadian study to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically on the mental health and well-being of Veterans' spouses. Subjectively, the pandemic negatively affected the mental health of this group, however, the pre-pandemic rate for mental health issues in this population is unknown. These results have important implications pertaining to future avenues of research and clinical/programme development post-pandemic, particularly relating to the potential need for increased support for spouses of Veterans, both as individuals and in their role as supports for Veterans.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Depressive Disorder, Major , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Humans , Veterans/psychology , Mental Health , Cross-Sectional Studies , Pandemics , Spouses/psychology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology , Depressive Disorder, Major/psychology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Canada/epidemiology
7.
JAMA Psychiatry ; 80(6): 577-584, 2023 06 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2259247

ABSTRACT

Importance: Concerns have been raised since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that vulnerable populations, such as military veterans, may be at increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs). Objective: To examine longitudinal trends in STBs in US military veterans during the first 3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study is a population-based longitudinal study including US military veterans that used 3 surveys from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Median dates of data collection were November 21, 2019 (prepandemic); November 14, 2020; and August 18, 2022. Main Outcomes and Measures: Lifetime and past-year suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempt. Results: In this longitudinal study including 2441 veterans (mean [SD] age, 63.2 years [14.0]; 2182 [92.1%] male), past-year suicidal ideation decreased from 9.3% prepandemic (95% CI, 8.2%-10.6%) to 6.8% a year later (95% CI%, 5.8-7.9%) and then slightly increased to 7.7% (95% CI, 6.7%-8.9%) 2 years later. In total, 9 veterans (0.4%) reported attempting suicide at least once during the follow-up period, while 100 (3.8%) developed new-onset suicidal ideation and 28 (1.2%) developed new-onset suicide planning. After adjusting for sociodemographic and military characteristics, factors strongly associated with new-onset suicidal ideation included higher education (odds ratio [OR], 3.27; 95% CI, 1.95-5.46), lifetime substance use disorder (OR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.23-3.46), prepandemic loneliness (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.09-1.49), and lower prepandemic purpose in life (OR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.86-0.97). Factors associated with new-onset suicide planning included lifetime substance use disorder (OR, 3.03; 95% CI, 1.22-7.55), higher prepandemic psychiatric distress (OR, 1.52; 95% CI, 1.06-2.18), and lower prepandemic purpose in life (OR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.81-0.95). Conclusions and Relevance: Contrary to expectations, the prevalence of STBs did not increase for most US veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, veterans with preexisting loneliness, psychiatric distress, and lower purpose in life were at heightened risk of developing new-onset suicidal ideation and suicide planning during the pandemic. Evidence-based prevention and intervention efforts that target these factors may help mitigate suicide risk in this population.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Military Personnel , Substance-Related Disorders , Veterans , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Female , Suicidal Ideation , Veterans/psychology , Pandemics , Cohort Studies , Longitudinal Studies , COVID-19/epidemiology , Military Personnel/psychology , Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology , Risk Factors
8.
Rehabil Psychol ; 68(2): 135-145, 2023 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2266565

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) are common among Veterans. Although the majority of neurobehavioral symptoms resolve following mTBI, studies with Veteran samples demonstrate a high frequency and chronicity of neurobehavioral complaints (e.g., difficulties with attention, frustration tolerance) often attributed to mTBI. Recent opinions suggest the primacy of mental health treatment, and existing mTBI practice guidelines promote patient-centered intervention beginning in primary care (PC). However, trial evidence regarding effective clinical management in PC is lacking. This study evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of a brief, PC-based problem-solving intervention to reduce psychological distress and neurobehavioral complaints. RESEARCH METHOD/DESIGN: Mixed method open clinical trial of 12 combat Veterans with a history of mTBI, chronic neurobehavioral complaints, and psychological distress. Measures included qualitative and quantitative indicators of feasibility (recruitment and retention metrics, interview feedback), patient acceptability (treatment satisfaction, perceived effectiveness), and change in psychological distress as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory-18. RESULTS: The protocol was successfully delivered via in-person and telehealth treatment modalities (4.3 sessions attended on average; 58% completed the full protocol). Patient interview data suggested that treatment content was personally relevant, and patients were satisfied with their experience. Treatment completers described the intervention as helpful and reported corresponding reductions in psychological distress (ES = 1.8). Dropout was influenced by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Further study with a more diverse, randomized sample is warranted. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).


Subject(s)
Brain Concussion , COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , Brain Concussion/epidemiology , Crisis Intervention , Feasibility Studies , Pandemics , Veterans/psychology
9.
Acad Emerg Med ; 30(4): 368-378, 2023 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2244646

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: Following rapid uptake of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, we examined barriers and facilitators for sustainability and spread of telemental health video (TMH-V) as policies regarding precautions from the pandemic waned. METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study using semistructured interviews and observations guided by RE-AIM. We asked four groups, local clinicians, facility leadership, Veterans, and external partners, about barriers and facilitators impacting patient willingness to engage in TMH-V (reach), quality of care (effectiveness), barriers and facilitators impacting provider uptake (adoption), possible adaptations to TMH-V (implementation), and possibilities for long-term use of TMH-V (maintenance). Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using framework analysis. We also observed TMH-V encounters in one emergency department (ED) and one urgent care (UC) to understand how clinicians and Veterans engaged with the technology. RESULTS: We conducted 35 interviews with ED/UC clinicians and staff (n = 10), clinical and facility leadership (n = 7), Veterans (n = 5), and external partners (n = 13), January-May 2022. We completed 10 observations. All interviewees were satisfied with the TMH-V program, and interviewees highlighted increased comfort discussing difficult topics for Veterans (reach). Clinicians identified that TMH-V allowed for cross-coverage across sites as well as increased safety and flexibility for clinicians (adoption). Opportunities for improvement include alleviating technological burdens for on-site staff, electronic health record (EHR) modifications to accurately capture workload and modality (telehealth vs. in-person), and standardizing protocols to streamline communication between on-site and remote clinical staff (implementation). Finally, interviewees encouraged its spread (maintenance) and thought there was great potential for service expansion. CONCLUSIONS: Interviewees expressed support for continuing TMH-V locally and spread to other sites. Ensuring adequate infrastructure (e.g., EHR integration and technology support) and workforce capacity are key for successful spread. Given the shortage of mental health (MH) clinicians in rural settings, TMH-V represents a promising intervention to increase the access to high-quality emergency MH care.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Emergency Medical Services , Telemedicine , Veterans , Humans , Pandemics , Telemedicine/methods , Veterans/psychology
10.
Am J Geriatr Psychiatry ; 31(7): 543-548, 2023 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2243625

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To examine the point prevalence and correlates of prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in a nationally-representative sample of United States (U.S.) veterans. METHODS: Data were analyzed from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative study of 2,441 U.S. veterans. RESULTS: A total of 158 (weighted 7.3%) veterans screened positive for PGD. The strongest correlates of PGD were adverse childhood experiences, female sex, non-natural causes of death, knowing someone who died from coronavirus disease 2019, and number of close losses. After adjusting for sociodemographic, military, and trauma variables, veterans with PGD were 5-to-9 times more likely to screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. After additional adjustment for current psychiatric and substance use disorders, they were 2-3 times more likely to endorse suicidal thoughts and behaviors. CONCLUSIONS: Results underscore the importance of targeting PGD as an independent risk factor for psychiatric disorders and suicide risk.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Depressive Disorder, Major , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Humans , Female , United States/epidemiology , Veterans/psychology , Prevalence , Prolonged Grief Disorder , Depressive Disorder, Major/epidemiology , Depressive Disorder, Major/psychology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Suicidal Ideation , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology
11.
J Med Internet Res ; 25: e42563, 2023 01 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2198167

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care services shifted to video- and phone-based modalities for patient and provider safety, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Connected Care widely expanded its video-enabled tablet program to bridge digital divides for veterans with limited video care access. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to characterize veterans who received and used US Department of VA-issued video-enabled tablets before versus during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: We compared sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of veterans who received VA-issued tablets during 6-month prepandemic and pandemic periods (ie, from March 11, 2019, to September 10, 2019, and from March 11, 2020, to September 10, 2020). Then, we examined characteristics associated with video visit use for primary and mental health care within 6 months after tablet shipment, stratifying models by timing of tablet receipt. RESULTS: There was a nearly 6-fold increase in the number of veterans who received tablets in the pandemic versus prepandemic study periods (n=36,107 vs n=6784, respectively). Compared to the prepandemic period, tablet recipients during the pandemic were more likely to be older (mean age 64 vs 59 years), urban-dwelling (24,504/36,107, 67.9% vs 3766/6784, 55.5%), and have a history of housing instability (8633/36,107, 23.9% vs 1022/6784, 15.1%). Pandemic recipients were more likely to use video care (21,090/36,107, 58.4% vs 2995/6784, 44.2%) and did so more frequently (5.6 vs 2.3 average encounters) within 6 months of tablet receipt. In adjusted models, pandemic and prepandemic video care users were significantly more likely to be younger, stably housed, and have a mental health condition than nonusers. CONCLUSIONS: Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased distribution of VA-issued tablets to veterans with complex clinical and social needs, tablet recipients who were older or unstably housed remained less likely to have a video visit. The VA's tablet distribution program expanded access to video-enabled devices, but interventions are needed to bridge disparities in video visit use among device recipients.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Telemedicine , Veterans , United States/epidemiology , Humans , Middle Aged , Veterans/psychology , Cohort Studies , COVID-19/epidemiology , Pandemics , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Tablets
12.
J Integr Complement Med ; 29(2): 127-130, 2023 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2160889

ABSTRACT

Background: Complementary and integrative health (CIH) interventions show promise in improving overall wellness and engaging Veterans at risk of suicide. Methods: An intensive 4-week telehealth CIH intervention programming was delivered motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and outcomes were measured pre-post program completion. Results: With 93% program completion (121 Veterans), significant reduction in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms were observed pre-post telehealth CIH programing, but not in sleep quality. Improvements in pain symptoms, and stress management skills were observed in Veterans at risk of suicide. Discussion: Telehealth CIH interventions show promise in improving mental health symptoms among at-risk Veterans, with great potential to broaden access to care toward suicide prevention.


Subject(s)
Complementary Therapies , Health Services Accessibility , Telemedicine , Veterans , Humans , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Mental Health , Pandemics/prevention & control , Veterans/psychology , Traditional Medicine Practitioners
13.
Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 19(20)2022 Oct 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2071483

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore perspectives of Whole Health (WH) coaches at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) on meeting the needs of rural Veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluation design employed a qualitative description approach, employing focus groups and in-depth interviews with a convenience sample of WH coaches across the VHA system. Fourteen coaches who work with rural Veterans participated in either one of three focus groups, individual interviews, or both. The focus group data and in-depth interviews were analyzed separately using thematic analysis, and findings were then merged to compare themes across both datasets. Four primary themes were identified: bridging social risk factors for rural Veterans, leveraging technology to stay connected with Veterans at-a-distance, redirecting Veterans to alternate modes of self-care, and maintaining flexibility in coaching role during COVID-19. One overarching theme was also identified following a post-hoc analysis driven by interdisciplinary team discussion: increased concerns for Veteran mental health during COVID-19. Coaches reported using a variety of strategies to respond to the wide-ranging needs of rural Veterans during the pandemic. Implications of findings for future research and practice are discussed.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Mental Health Services , Veterans , United States/epidemiology , Humans , Veterans/psychology , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , COVID-19/epidemiology , Pandemics , Qualitative Research
14.
BMC Prim Care ; 23(1): 245, 2022 09 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2038662

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread changes to healthcare, but few studies focus on ambulatory care during the early phase of the pandemic. We characterize veterans' ambulatory care experience, specifically access and satisfaction, early in the pandemic. METHODS: We employed a semi-structured telephone interview to capture quantitative and qualitative data from patients scheduled with a primary care provider between March 1 - June 30, 2020. Forty veterans were randomly identified at a single large urban Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical center. The interview guide utilized 56 closed and open-ended questions to characterize veterans' perceptions of access to and satisfaction with their primary care experience at VHA and non-VHA primary care sources. We also explored the context of veterans' daily lives during the pandemic. We analyzed quantitative data using descriptive statistics and verbatim quotes using a matrix analysis. RESULTS: Veterans reported completing more appointments (mean 2.6 (SD 2.2)) than scheduled (mean 2.3 (SD 2.2)) mostly due to same-day or urgent visits, with a shift to telephone (mean 2.1 (SD 2.2)) and video (mean 1.5 (SD 0.6)). Among those who reported decreased access to care early in the pandemic (n = 27 (67%)), 15 (56%) cited administrative barriers ("The phone would hang up on me") and 9 (33%) reported a lack of provider availability ("They are not reaching out like they used to"). While most veterans (n = 31 (78%)) were highly satisfied with their VHA care (mean score 8.6 (SD 2.0 on a 0-10 scale), 9 (23%) reported a decrease in satisfaction since the pandemic. The six (15%) veterans who utilized non-VHA providers during the period of interest reported, on average, higher satisfaction ratings (mean 9.5 (SD 1.2)). Many veterans reported psychosocial effects such as the worsening of mental health (n = 6 (15%)), anxiety concerning the virus (n = 12 (30%)), and social isolation (n = 8 (20%), "I stay inside and away from people"). CONCLUSIONS: While the number of encounters reported suggest adequate access and satisfaction, the comments regarding barriers to care suggest that enhanced approaches may be warranted to improve and sustain veteran perceptions of adequate access to and satisfaction with primary care during times of crisis.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Ambulatory Care , COVID-19/epidemiology , Health Services Accessibility , Humans , Pandemics , Personal Satisfaction , Primary Health Care , United States/epidemiology , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Veterans/psychology
15.
J Gen Intern Med ; 37(Suppl 3): 724-733, 2022 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2014422

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Little is known about women veterans' intimate partner violence (IPV) experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic or the impacts of pandemic-related stress on their mental and physical health. OBJECTIVES: To identify IPV experiences among women veterans prior to and during the pandemic, pandemic-related stressors, and examine their respective contributions to mental and physical health. DESIGN: National sample of women veterans drawn from a larger web-based longitudinal study. Relationships between recent IPV and pandemic-related stressors were tested with linear regressions, controlling for pre-pandemic IPV and mental and physical health symptoms, demographic, and military-related covariates. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred forty-two women veterans (Mage=58.8 years). MAIN MEASURES: We assessed IPV (CTS-2), PTSD (PCL-5), depression (CESD), anxiety (DASS-A), physical health (PHQ-15), and physical health-related quality of life (SF-12) prior to the pandemic (June 2016-December 2016/January 2017) and during the pandemic study period (March 2020-December 2020/January 2021). We assessed pandemic-related stressors (EPII) during the pandemic study period. KEY RESULTS: Over a third (38.7%) of participants experienced IPV during the pandemic study period (psychological: 35.9%, physical: 9.9%, sexual: 4.2%). Overall rates, frequency, and severity of IPV experience did not significantly differ between the pre-pandemic and pandemic study periods. Few participants tested positive for COVID-19 (4.2%); however, most participants reported experiencing pandemic-related stressors across life domains (e.g., social activities: 88%, physical health: 80.3%, emotional health: 68.3%). IPV during the pandemic and pandemic-related stressors were both associated with greater PTSD and depressive symptoms. Pandemic-related stressors were associated with worse anxiety and physical health symptoms. Neither IPV during the pandemic nor pandemic-related stressors were associated with physical health-related quality of life. CONCLUSIONS: IPV experiences during the pandemic were common among women veterans, as were pandemic-related stressors. Although IPV did not increase in the context of COVID-19, IPV experiences during the pandemic and pandemic-related stressors were linked with poorer mental and physical health.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Intimate Partner Violence , Veterans , COVID-19/epidemiology , Female , Humans , Intimate Partner Violence/psychology , Longitudinal Studies , Pandemics , Quality of Life , Veterans/psychology
16.
J Trauma Stress ; 35(6): 1792-1800, 2022 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2013662

ABSTRACT

Trauma-exposed veterans receiving mental health care may have an elevated risk of experiencing COVID-19-related difficulties. Using data from several ongoing clinical trials (N = 458), this study examined exposure to COVID-19-related stressors and their associations with key sociodemographic factors and mental health outcomes. The results showed that exposure to COVID-19-related stressors was common, higher among veterans who were racial/ethnic minorities d = 0.32, and associated with elevated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), r = .288, and depressive symptom severity, r = .246. Women veterans experienced more difficulty accessing social support, d = 0.31, and higher levels of COVID-19-related distress, d = 0.31, than men. Qualitative data were consistent with survey findings and highlighted the broader societal context in veterans' experience of COVID-19-related distress. These findings may inform future research on the impact of the pandemic on veterans, particularly those who are women and members of minoritized racial/ethnic groups, as well as mental health treatment planning for this population.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Male , Female , Humans , Veterans/psychology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology , Mental Health , Social Support
17.
J Gen Intern Med ; 37(Suppl 3): 778-785, 2022 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2007240

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Increasingly, women are serving in the military and seeking care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Women veterans face unique challenges and barriers in seeking mental health (MH) care within VHA. VA Video Connect (VVC), which facilitates video-based teleconferencing between patients and providers, can reduce barriers while maintaining clinical effectiveness. OBJECTIVE: Primary aims were to examine gender differences in VVC use, describe changes in VVC use over time (including pre-COVID and 6 months following the beginning of COVID), and determine whether changes over time differed by gender. DESIGN: A retrospective cohort investigation of video-to-home telehealth for MH care utilization among veterans having at least 1 MH visit from October 2019 to September 2020. PARTICIPANTS: Veterans (236,268 women; 1,318,024 men). INTERVENTIONS (IF APPLICABLE): VVC involves face-to-face, synchronous, video-based teleconferencing between patients and providers, enabling care at home or another private location. MAIN MEASURES: Percentage of MH encounters delivered via VA Video Connect. KEY RESULTS: Women veterans were more likely than men to have at least 1 VVC encounter and had a greater percentage of MH care delivered via VVC in FY20. There was an increase in the percentage of MH encounters that were VVC over FY20, and this increase was greater for women than men. Women veterans who were younger than 55 (compared to those 55 and older), lived in urban areas (compared to those in rural areas), or were Asian (compared to other races) had a greater percentage of MH encounters that were VVC since the start of the pandemic, controlling for the mean percentage of VVC MH encounters in the 6 months pre-pandemic. CONCLUSIONS: VVC use for MH care is greater in women veterans compared to male veterans and may reduce gender-specific access barriers. Future research and VVC implementation efforts should emphasize maximizing patient choice and satisfaction.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Telemedicine , Veterans , COVID-19/epidemiology , Female , Humans , Male , Patient Acceptance of Health Care , Retrospective Studies , United States/epidemiology , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Veterans/psychology , Veterans Health
18.
PLoS One ; 17(8): e0273579, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2002339

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented effects on mental health and community functioning. Negative effects related to disruption of individuals' social connections may have been more severe for those who had tenuous social connections prior to the pandemic. Veterans who have recently experienced homelessness (RHV) or have a psychotic disorder (PSY) are considered particularly vulnerable because many had poor social connections prior to the pandemic. METHODS: We conducted a 15-month longitudinal study between May 2020 -July 2021 assessing clinical (e.g., depression, anxiety) and community (e.g., social functioning, work functioning) outcomes. Eighty-one PSY, 76 RHV, and 74 Veteran controls (CTL) were interviewed over 5 assessment periods. We assessed changes in mental health and community functioning trajectories relative to pre-pandemic retrospective ratings and examined group differences in these trajectories. RESULTS: All groups had significantly increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and concerns with contamination at the onset of the pandemic. However, RHV and PSY showed faster returns to their baseline levels compared to CTL, who took nearly 15 months to return to baseline. With regards to functioning, both RHV and PSY, but not CTL, had significant improvements in family and social networks over time. Work functioning worsened over time only in PSY, and independent living increased over time in both RHV and PSY but not CTL. CONCLUSIONS: These results reveal that vulnerable Veterans with access to VA mental health and case management services exhibited lower negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and community functioning than expected.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Ill-Housed Persons , Psychotic Disorders , Veterans , COVID-19/epidemiology , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , Mental Health , Pandemics , Psychotic Disorders/diagnosis , Psychotic Disorders/epidemiology , Retrospective Studies , Veterans/psychology
19.
PLoS One ; 17(6): e0269678, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1933344

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to examine the unique factors of loneliness and social isolation within the ex-military population from discharge, through transition, to the present day. DESIGN: A qualitative, Phenomenological approach was adopted. METHODS: In-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with 11 participants who had all served in the British Armed Forces and represented all three military services (Royal Navy; Army; Royal Air Force). Reflexive Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the data. RESULTS: Three themes were generated-a sense of loss; difficulty in connecting in civilian life; and seeking out familiarity. The findings of this study were examined through the lenses of the Social Needs Approach and the Cognitive Discrepancy Model. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals developed close bonds in the military through meaningful and prolonged contact, reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation during their time in service. The sense of belonging was key to social connection, but transition out of the military severed existing relationships, and a lack of belonging hindered the development of relationships within the civilian community. This study has implications for service provision relating to ex-military personnel and future service leavers.


Subject(s)
Loneliness , Social Isolation , Veterans , Humans , Loneliness/psychology , Social Isolation/psychology , Veterans/psychology
20.
J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv ; 60(12): 25-29, 2022 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1911803

ABSTRACT

U.S. Veterans experience a significantly higher risk for suicide compared to the general population. Understanding the challenges associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) enables providers to mitigate the risk of suicide among Veterans. Evidence supports access and utilization of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health services as they are a protective factor associated with lower suicide rates. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the VA has worked to further decrease deaths by suicide in the Veteran population by rapid expansion of current interventions and implementation of new evidence-based interventions. These interventions include mental health and coaching applications, consistent use of measurement-based care across multiple disciplines, and greater use of telehealth services. Through these efforts, despite increased risk for suicide due to additional stressors from COVID-19, suicide rates among Veterans are decreasing. [Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 60(12), 25-29.].


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Suicide Prevention , Suicide , Veterans , United States/epidemiology , Humans , Veterans/psychology , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Pandemics , Suicide/psychology
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