A recent paper published in the Journal of Homosexuality by University of Montana psychology Associate Professor Bryan Cochran, UM doctoral graduate Annesa Flentje and authors from other institutions indicates that lesbian, gay and bisexual veterans of the U.S. military endorse higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol problems than the general veteran population.
The study surveyed 409 LGB veterans – all of whom served prior to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – about their military experiences, current mental health symptoms, LGB-related stressors and specific experiences associated with being an LGB service member. A comparison sample of veterans was retrieved from a Veterans Affairs database.
Results indicated that more than two-thirds of LGB veterans experienced anxiety or fear about having their LGB identity revealed while in the service and that they were constantly trying to conceal their sexual orientation while in the service. Almost one-fifth of LGB veterans indicated that they perceived their military discharge to be related to their sexual orientation.
The researchers identified an association between current mental health symptoms of LGB veterans, such as depression and PTSD, and anxiety experienced around concealment of their sexual orientation while in the service. Despite this association, it is impossible to conclude that concealment of one’s sexual orientation caused later mental health difficulties.
Additional authors of the study were Kimberly Balsam of Palo Alto University, as well as Carol Malte and Tracy Simpson of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.