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A Qualitative Description of Female Veterans’ Deployment-Related Experiences and Potential Suicide Risk Factors


  • Writing of this manuscript was supported in part by the Office of Academic Affiliations, Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, Department of Veterans Affairs. This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the VISN 19 MIRECC located at the Denver VA Medical Center. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. We thank Margaret King for her assistance with data coding.

Please address correspondence to: Peter M. Gutierrez, VISN 19 Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs, 1055 Clermont St., Denver, CO 80220. E-mail at



A qualitative study among female Veterans from recent conflicts was conducted to explore the women's experiences and potential suicide risk factors according to the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide, including burdensomeness, failed belongingness, and acquired ability.


The presented paper is an extension of published work by Brenner et al. (2008) regarding mostly male combat Veterans. The methodology employed was qualitative descriptive with hermeneutic hues (Sandelowski, 2000). Interviews were conducted with 19 women, aged 24–52 years, all of whom had been deployed to combat zones in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.


Transcripts were reviewed and themes emerged regarding women being a minority within their environment and deployment-related stressors. These experiences seemed to influence participants’ views of the world and ways of coping.


Among the interviewed female Veterans, preliminary support was provided for Joiner's concepts. Therapeutic strategies for applying themes to clinical practice (e.g., peer support, family therapy, interventions aimed at increasing distress tolerance) are provided.