Women Vietnam Veterans and Their Mental Health Adjustment: A Study of Their Experiences and Post-Traumatic Stress
Schnaier, Jenny Ann
Spokane, Arnold R.
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Approximately 8,000-10,000 women served directly in the Vietnam war. Popular literature and women's self-reports suggest that by virtue of their exposure to extreme stressors resulting from war-time medical experiences women veterans are now describing their stress symptoms, and may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The intention of this preliminary, descriptive research was to assess the nature and extent of mental health problems affecting female Vietnam veterans. Subjects were contacted through a mailing list of a veterans organization and 89 women who had served in Vietnam as medical personnel completed a written questionnaire about their experiences and reactions to them yielding a 97% return rate. The results indicated that approximately one-third of the stress symptom items were endorsed by 25% of the subjects, and of symptoms first reported as having occurred between homecoming and one year after Vietnam, approximately 70% were reported as still present. These identified symptoms represented a fairly complete picture of those specific symptoms and experiences of PTSD as defined by DSM III of the A.P.A. This investigator concluded that, (a) the current research effort has provided preliminary evidence that PTSD may be applicable to the experiences of women Vietnam veterans, (b) there is evidence of mental health distress among the women sampled, (c) there are positive, growthful experiences for many of the women in this sample, and (d) at l east as far as biographical-demographical factors are concerned, this sample of women Vietnam veterans are different from previously studied male veterans.