The meaning of health care seeking behavior and resource use among male veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have unique combat related medical and mental health issues including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The gap between their increased need for health care and underuse of health care services indicated a need to understand the meaning of health-seeking behaviors of these veterans. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to better understand what seeking healthcare means to the male Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Purposive sampling with a snowball strategy was used to recruit twenty male veterans who had been deployed and 90% of who experienced combat. Data were collected in a onetime face-to-face interview using a semi-structured interview guide. Data were analyzed using Ricoeur's data analysis method and hermeneutic circle technique. Four themes emerged that highlighted what help-seeking meant to the veterans: "I'm never a civilian. None of us are ever civilians when we leave combat"; "I don't care so much about thinking I'm weak these days because I got help, so I have changed my attitude on that"; "It's such a deal with the VA. It's so impersonal and it's such a huge bureaucracy"; and "Thinking about that." The findings indicate that help seeking is a complex behavior affected by personal, structural, and socio-cultural factors that interplay in any given help-seeking context regardless of health care need. The importance of military culture values is fundamental to what seeking help means to OEF/OIF veterans. Understanding what help-seeking means to the veterans, what factors interact to impact their help-seeking behavior may facilitate formulating policies and VA initiatives that are OEF/OIF veteran-centered and further research about OEF/OIF veterans' help-seeking.