Military Personnel, Stigma, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse
by Brittny Mills
Mental health and substance abuse issues are concerns for many military personnel returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Of the significant number affected, few attempt to receive treatment, in part due to the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse. “Mental health issues are particularly susceptible to stigma due to the pattern of attribution by which individuals with psychological problems are perceived to be responsible for their illness as opposed to those with physical conditions” (Olmsted et al., 2011, p. 53).
Internal stigma is also greater in those with mental health distress as opposed to those without. Of the 1,436 participants (soldiers) surveyed by Olmsted and colleagues (2011), “the results of this study indicated that although all military personnel reported stigma regarding treatment for mental health and substance abuse, those actually receiving treatment held higher perceptions of stigma regarding mental health treatment” (p. 60).
This unfortunately leads to fewer military personnel seeking mental health and/or substance abuse treatment(s) and greater numbers of treatment failures.
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Student
Olmsted, K.L.R., Brown, J.M., Vandermaas-Peeler, J.R., Tueller, S.J., Johnson, R.E., & Gibbs, D.A. (2011). Mental health and substance abuse treatment stigma among soldiers. Military Psychology, 23(1), 52-64. doi:10.1080/08995605.2011.534414
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