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Post: A new report highlights the gaps in women veterans’ mental health care

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A new report highlights the gaps in women veterans’ mental health care
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The nonprofit Disabled American Veterans released over 50 recommendations on how to better support the mental health of women veterans. Ginger MacCutcheon had plans to spend decades as a military medic in the Women’s Army Corps. She enlisted right out of high school, leaving northeast Ohio at the age of 18.

“ I went off to boot camp dressed in a suit with matching luggage and shoes, just like Private Benjamin would go,” MacCutcheon said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, this is a great adventure I’m going on.’”

That dream was cut short. MacCutcheon was raped repeatedly by commanding officers. The sexual harassment followed her from base to base. Years passed before she felt safe enough to confide in a colleague and was honorably discharged.

In the years following her departure from the military, MacCutcheon attempted suicide twice.

“They discharge you and let you go with no idea of how you’re going to help yourself or get help. Nobody says anything,” MacCutcheon said. Ginger MacCutcheon enlisted in the army at a young age. Veterans are at higher risk for suicide than civilians. And the rate for women veterans has risen more sharply than that for their male counterparts. It jumped more than 20% between 2020 and 2021.

The nonprofit Disabled American Veterans (DAV) says women veterans need more support for their unique mental health needs. A third of them experience military sexual trauma. Female veterans are more likely to experience intimate partner violence and have an eating disorder . All three can lead to a greater risk of suicide.

But, the VA doesn’t factor in all of these risks in their mental health outreach and intervention, according to Naomi Mathis, policy advocate with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans, or DAV.

“The VA was not created with women in mind,” Mathis said. Changing the baseline

Mathis said the VA created a model for assessing risk of suicide that’s based on men; it doesn’t include military sexual trauma (MST), which disproportionately impacts women.She argues that makes the more than 60,000 female veterans in Ohio more likely to slip through the cracks. Especially, she said, because many of them […]

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