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Talking about mental health: Dilemmas U.S. military service members and spouses experience post deployment

APA Citation:

Peck, B. S., & Parcell, E. S. (2021). Talking about mental health: Dilemmas U.S. military service members and spouses experience post deployment. Journal of Family Communication, 21(2), 90-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1887195

Abstract Created by REACH:

In this study, 50 Service members and their spouses (N = 100 individuals) were interviewed to discuss communication within the couple relationship, specifically communication about mental health concerns during the reintegration period. The aim was to better understand the challenges that Service members and their spouses experience related to communication about mental health. Participant responses revealed six dilemmas that couples experienced when discussing and seeking help for mental health concerns and three perspectives regarding whose responsibility it is to manage these dilemmas.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member
Guard/Reserve member
Spouse of service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Cross-Sectional Study
Qualitative Study


Peck, Brittnie Star, Parcell, Erin Sahlstein


A major concern for the U.S. military, its personnel, and their family members, is mental health among the ranks. Suicide rates among military veterans and active duty military personnel steadily increased post 9/11. Trends show service members are unlikely to seek support for mental health concerns primarily due to the stigma in the military and the broader culture around the issue. We sought to understand the challenges military personnel and their spouses face post-deployment when talking about, suggesting, and seeking mental health support. We interviewed 50 U.S. military service members and their spouses (N = 100). Our thematic analysis identified six dilemmas with three forms (i.e., My, Your, & Our). Findings suggest service members and their families are underserved during the reintegration period and underscore the need for intervention efforts that improve their mental, emotional, and relational well-being.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Communication, University of Kentucky, BSP
Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, ESP


mental health, suicide rates, military veterans, active duty personnel, stigma

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


University of Nevada–Las Vegas Research Development Award
UNLV Summer Research Grant secured by Sahlstein Parcell

REACH Newsletter:

  July 2021

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