Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Could bartenders help diagnose depression and PTSD?

The old saw is that your local bartender will listen to your problems when nobody else will.

But what if they could do more than listen to your problems? What if they could provide answers?

That's the idea behind a new study published in the Journal of Military and Veterans' Health.

Let's go to the press release:

A pilot study suggests that some bartenders may be in a good position to identify veterans in need of mental health services and help connect them to the appropriate agency.

Researchers at Ohio State University surveyed 71 bartenders employed at Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Ohio.

The results showed that bartenders felt very close to their customers and that these customers shared their problems freely with them, said Keith Anderson, lead author of the study and assistant professor of social work at Ohio State.

"Many of the bartenders said that their customers were very much like family," Anderson said.

"Given the closeness of the relationships, these bartenders are in a really great position to help these veterans – if they are given the right training and the right tools."

Of the bartenders surveyed, 73 percent said their role with their customers was "like family." And about 70 percent of the bartenders said that the veterans they interacted with "always" or "often" shared their problems with them.
Encouragingly, 80 percent of the bartenders said they would be willing to refer veterans to services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

These results show why bartenders may be especially well-suited to help troubled veterans, Anderson said.

"We need to find the veterans where they are. Many of them may not be willing to go to a VA clinic to seek out help on their own. The VFW bartenders may be one of our best chances to reach some of these veterans," he said.

Part of this study looked into whether bartenders might already have the sensitivity to notice problems that others might not see:

About two-thirds of those surveyed rated their ability to recognize depression in their patrons as "moderate," while the remaining third rated their ability as "high."

Only 14 percent rated their ability to recognize symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as "high" while 43 percent rated their ability as low.

Two small quibbles: 1) We hope bartenders can be trained to tell trauma to stop drinking, and 2) younger vets simply aren't joining their local VFW or American Legion these days. But if you could take this further to all bartenders, it might help make them a very good resource for people who would otherwise be drowning their sorrows.

Read the whole release about this pilot study here:

Bartenders may have role in assisting troubled war veterans

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