Academic journal article College Student Journal

Out from the Shadows: Female Student Veterans and Help-Seeking

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Out from the Shadows: Female Student Veterans and Help-Seeking

Article excerpt

Colleges and universities are devoting resources to support students who have military experience. However, evidence suggests veterans may not be using services. Since resources are available this begs the questions "why not?" and "what are the help-seeking attitudes of veterans for psychological and academic assistance?" It's also timely to consider female veterans in college. What needs and concerns do they have? Are they different than men? Mixed methods were used to investigate help-seeking attitudes of student veterans, particularly women. One unusual finding revealed attitudes were statistically equal by gender. Three themes emerged from interviews suggesting that experiences and norms of male-dominant military service do shape women's attitudes toward seeking help. A graphical conceptual framework for understanding findings and discussion of implications are provided.

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Over the past five years, colleges and universities have been devoting resources to meet the needs of student veterans who are transitioning to school from military service, including those who have served in combat in the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. For example, more than 40% of higher education institutions surveyed in an American Council on Education study in 2012 have opened or plan to establish a veterans center on campus in the next five years (up from 17% in 2009).

These schools are striving to offer a "ones-top" approach to provide services for this unique and emerging population of non-traditional students (McBain, Kim, Cook, & Snead, 2012). However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many veterans who could use services do not avail themselves of the services (Jackson & Hernandez, 2012; Livingston, Havice, Cawthon, & Fleming, 2011; Randall, Spry, & Lukow n, 2013). Since resources are available on campus for this growing population, this begs the question of why not? If you build it, why don't they come? What are the help-seeking attitudes of student veterans?

Additionally, the time has come to consider the phenomenon of the female veteran in college. What needs and concerns do they bring to campus? Are these needs and concerns the same or different than those of the men? For the past three decades, women have enlisted in the military in ever-increasing numbers. The cohort of women having served since World War II is the fastest growing within this nation's veteran community. Today, of the 22.7 million living veterans, nearly 8% (one in 13) are women and, by 2035, estimates are that women will make up 15% (one in 7) of living veterans (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2013a). Fifteen percent of today's active duty service members and more than 17% of reserve and National Guard forces are women (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2013b). A Pew study reported that 82% of post-9/11 female veterans say they joined the military to receive educational benefits (Patten & Parker, 2011) and it is reasonable to expect that a quarter of a million women with military experience will attend or are planning to attend college by the end of the decade. What do college administrators and higher education policy makers know about this important student population? And more importantly, what are their attitudes about seeking assistance on a college campus? Through both quantitative (online survey) and qualitative (interviews) methods this study investigates the help-seeking attitudes of college student veterans, particularly women.

Help-Seeking Attitudes of College Students

Rickwood, Deane, Wilson, and Ciarrochi (2005) defined help-seeking as "behavior of actively seeking help from other people" (p. 4). An important component of the help-seeking process is that it is intentional, not passive, communication with others to obtain support or assistance (Karabenic, 2004). One element of distinction among college students and their attitudes toward seeking help is differences by gender, particularly in seeking assistance for personal psychological challenges (Addis & Mahalik, 2003; Fischer & Turner, 1970; Leong & Zachar, 1999; Vogel & Wester, 2003). …

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