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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bartenders Helping Veterans With Mental Health Problems

Substance abuse and mental health often go hand and hand, there are countless cases of people suffering from a mental health disorder that use substances like drugs and alcohol to cope with their problem. Mental health problems often go undetected because it is difficult for the suffering to open up, leaving few opportunities for anyone to address the problem. A new study being conducted by Ohio State's Keith Anderson, lead author of the study and assistant professor of social work, suggests that some bartenders may be well suited to identify and direct veterans in need of mental help to the appropriate agency. Bartenders are in a lot of ways like family to their customers, regulars often confide with their bartenders, sharing some of their most intimate secrets. "Given the closeness of the relationships, these bartenders are in a really great position to help these veterans - if they are given the right training and the right tools."

The researchers sent surveys to 300 randomly selected VFW posts in Ohio. 71 bartenders working at 32 different VFW posts responded.

Of the bartenders surveyed:
  • 73 percent said their interaction with customers was "like family."
  • About 70 percent of the bartenders said that the veterans they interacted with "always" or "often" shared their problems with them.
  • 80 percent of the bartenders said they would be willing to refer veterans to services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Only 14 percent rated their ability to recognize symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as "high" while 43 percent rated their ability as low.
  • About 60 percent said they would be willing to do additional training on identifying physical and mental health problems in their customers, so long as it was offered through the VFW.
  • About two-thirds of those surveyed rated their ability to recognize depression in their patrons as "moderate," while the remaining third rated their ability as "high."
"We need to find the veterans where they are. Many of them may not be willing to go to a VA clinic to seek out help on their own. The VFW bartenders may be one of our best chances to reach some of these veterans," Anderson said.

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Military and Veterans' Health.

Keith Anderson
Medical News Today

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