Pathways to Well-Being in the Lives of Recently Returning Veterans

Sarah Krill Williston, University of Massachusetts Boston

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Given the intensity and duration of military deployments since 2001, the risk for combat related stress injuries is significant. Prevalence ratings suggest anywhere between 1 in 6, to 40% of combat veterans will experience combat related psychopathology, such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression after deployment and potentially benefit from treatment services. However, less than half of those veterans are likely to seek professional mental health care for fear of stigma. Given that the majority of recently returning veterans do not seek professional mental health care, understanding the protective processes of the social support network outside of professional settings is important. The current study examined how post-deployment social support and emotional regulation skills relate to well-being (including quality of life and post-traumatic growth) in a sample of recently returning (OEF/ OIF /OND) college student veterans. Sixty-five participants completed an online survey containing questions about post-deployment and general social support, emotion regulation, psychological distress, military experiences and demographics. Results provided partial support for the proposed bi-directional mediational relations between post-deployment social support and emotion regulation predicting to quality of life, but not post-traumatic growth, suggesting that both social support and emotion regulation skills may be useful targets for prevention and intervention efforts. Limitations and clinical implications as well as areas for future research are discussed.