Kristin Holloway


Breaking Down Barriers: Enhancing Engagement in Mental Health Care for African American Veterans with PTSD


Research indicates that African American veterans exhibit lower rates of engagement in mental health and psychiatric care services. This disparity is influenced by historical, cultural, and societal factors, contributing to both initial reluctance and ongoing disengagement from services. These challenges exacerbate health disparities, limit access to care, and result in the misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis of PTSD among African American veterans. Over the next decade, African American veterans are projected to become one of the fastest-growing populations eligible for VA care. As the racial and ethnic composition of VA care recipients evolves, it’s imperative to identify and address barriers to care to enhance and sustain engagement in mental health services. This capstone project aims to thoroughly explore and assess key factors for improving the engagement of African American veterans in mental health care. By examining the symptomatology of PTSD specific to African American veterans, we can better understand symptom patterns and presentations, facilitating more accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment. Using cultural mistrust theory and critical race theory, this project will evaluate barriers to engagement in care, considering historical, cultural, and societal contexts. Finally, it will present strategies for increasing and sustaining engagement in mental health services, offering improved treatment options tailored to the needs of African American veterans.


Kristin R. Holloway, MSW, Doctoral Candidate is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Social Work. Kristin received her Bachelors of Arts, in Psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and her Masters of Arts, in Social Work from the University of Chicago, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice in Chicago, IL. Kristin is currently a student at the University of Kentucky, School of Social Work, where her concentration is military behavioral health. With 12 years of experience working in the field of Social Work, Kristin began her career working with individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse issues at Thresholds located in Chicago, IL. For the past decade, she has been employed at the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration, initially at the Tomah VA Medical Center and presently at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Kristin has extensive experience as both a medical and mental health social worker, working with veterans with spinal cord injuries, severe mental illnesses, homebound veterans, and veterans in long-term care facilities. In her current role as a general mental health therapist, Kristin provides individual and group therapy to veterans with various mental health diagnoses. She also contributes to the Milwaukee VA Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) clinic by conducting mental health evaluations. Kristin’s research interests encompass health disparities, health equity, racial trauma, and racial disparities in the military. Her current Capstone project focuses on engaging African American veterans in mental health treatment.