Stigma of Mental Illness Among the Military
Stern College for Women
The present review addresses the perceived stigma associated with admitting mental illness and seeking mental health treatment. Research on the public stigma associated with mental illness is reviewed, indicating that the public generates stereotypes of mental illness, which may lead to discrimination of those individuals with mental illness. The internalization of these public beliefs result in self stigma which leads the individual to experience low self esteem and self efficacy. This process of stigmatization in both public and self, is what causes the mentally ill individual to reject the provided mental health treatment. Under the influence of the military, these mentally ill individuals are more prone to stigma barriers in mental health treatment. Within the military it is understood that there is a high demand of reediness and responsibility, which is threatened by the stereotypes incapability associated with mental illness, resulting in an exposure of “weakness” for the mentally ill individual. Soldiers in efforts to avoid this consequence will deal with there psychological symptoms independently rather then facing the consequences that might entail in seeking professional treatment. The term invisible wound was established in order to change the belief of a physical and tangible injury acceptable but not an emotional injury. Efforts to reduce the mental health stereotype and promote mental health treatment have included testing possible interventions, which can be applied in future military personnel with psychological problems. The interventions are directed towards improving one area of stigma and include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and improvement in leadership quality and unit cohesion. Starting on October 2001, 1.64 million soldiers were deployed to serve either in OEF, Operation enduring Freedom or OIF, Operation Iraq Freedom. Upon their return, close to half of these soldiers reported symptoms of mental health problems. The prevalence of mental problems in the US military was larger then it has ever been. The Military personnel screening positive for PTSD was at a rate of 0.2% in 2002 and in 2008 increased to 21.8%. Additionally, during these years rates of Alcohol abuse went from 1.1 %- 7.1% as well as the rates of Depression going from 2.3%- 17.4%. Unfortunately, along with the rise of PTSD, Alcohol abuse, and depression the increase rate of military suicide followed Kim et al. (2010). As a result measures were taken in order to reduce mental health barriers and improve the accessibility of mental health care within the military personnel. In 2008, The National Defense Authorized Act was passed which extended the eligibility of receiving VA health care benefits from 2 to 5 years post deployment. Although the potential barrier of accessibility was adjusted the gap military utilization of mental health treatment still remained.
Through the studies identifying mental illness and prevalence in the military, researchers have found that the rate of positive screening mental illness is inconsistent with the rate in utilization of mental health services. Hoge et al. (2004) conduced a study measuring the mental health problems in 3,201 OIF and OEI military personnel. The study found that of the soldiers and marines who met the criteria for a mental health illness only 23- 40% reported actually receiving professional mental health care treatment. Interestingly, only 38- 45% of those positively screened reported an interest in receiving any form of treatment. If healthcare is delivered, then what leads these suffering military personnel to reject the advised mental health care attention? This article will argue that the perceived stigma in mental illness is a major factor contributing to the lack of utilization of the mental health care provided.
The forms of Stigma:
In order to...
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