Date of Graduation

Winter 12-13-2019

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly L'Engle


Purpose: The purpose of this paper was to analyze focus group data from the 2017 Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) summit. Qualitative analysis focused on the barriers women veterans face with mental health issues from their service experience, with the goal to help better understand how to direct advocacy efforts for the population while identifying recommendations for process improvement.

Methods: Four focus groups with female service members were conducted. Group 1 consisted of Currently Serving (active duty and reserve) female service members; Group 2 consisted of women veterans 44 and under ; Group 3 comprised women veterans 45 and older; and Group 4 were retired female service members who receive some type of military pension. A thematic analysis using Nvivo statistical software for qualitative data was conducted

Results: Four main themes were identified as Uncertainty, MST, Sexism, and Service Experience. Uncertainty dealt with an individual’s response from an illness related event or symptom which participants perceived as either a threat or an opportunity manifesting a response that is physical, psychological, emotional, behavioral, and/or social.

Service experience concerns how the environment of the service affected participants’ experience within the military. Sexism was coded as gender bias.

MST was any unwanted verbal or physical action.

Discussion: : The findings demonstrate that many female service members cycle through different stages of readiness to seek help, acknowledge or identify a mental health issue and how they would respond to it based on service barriers. Implications for practice include continuing to obtain feedback to improve the services of VA systems, and recommendations for improvement of current military policies for help seeking behaviors.