Spreading pride in all who served: A health education program to improve access and mental health outcomes for sexual and gender minority veterans
Hilgeman, M.M., Lange, T.M., Bishop, T., & Cramer, R.J.
Access to effective, replicable services is critical to reduce known mental health disparities for sexual and gender minority or LGBTQ+ veterans (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and related identities). This paper examines the impact of a manualized 10-week health education group, called PRIDE in All Who Served on veteran patient experience, protective factors (e.g., identity acceptance), and mental health outcomes (e.g., suicide risk) at 10 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. Implementation facilitation strategies (e.g., consultation, staff training) supported adoption at new sites and initial facilitators and barriers are described. Forty-four veterans (M = 47.21 years old) completed outcome surveys before and after the group. Significant improvement in acceptance concerns, identity uncertainty, community involvement, and likelihood of future suicide attempts were observed; other changes in mental health symptoms were not replicated in this sample (e.g., depression, anxiety). Open-ended veteran feedback reflected improved social support and engagement and increased self-understanding as the most frequent themes. At the facility level, Healthcare Equality Index scores (a Human Rights Campaign measure of affirmative care climate) improved from 30% to 90% achieving top-performer/leader status from pre- to postimplementation. Manualized approaches, like PRIDE in All Who Served, that are based on established minority stress models and can be spread for use with diverse LGBTQ+ veterans (e.g., age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, rurality, housing) are needed. The PRIDE in All Who Served program is an increasingly available resource to VA clinicians advocating for greater health equity within a national healthcare setting.