Exploring Cultural Influences and Moral Experiences Behind Mental Illness Stigma in the U.S. Army
Handloff, Jessica R.
During recent conflicts in which the United States military is engaged, research exposed the high number of conflict veterans suffering from behavioral health problems. Existing research primarily focuses on the individual psychological processes of those suffering from mental disorders and the perceived barriers to care, the most salient of which is fear of stigmatization (Hoge et al. 2004, Ouimette et al. 2011). In order to explore mental illness stigma from the unique perspective of U.S. military service members, data were collected during semi-structured interviews with ten active duty U.S. Army officers and nine East Carolina University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets. Personal semantic analysis and narrative analysis revealed that army officers demonstrate strong cognitive links between physical fitness and behavioral health. They also experience an acute awareness of top-down pressure regarding job performance leading to fear of mental illness affecting accomplishment of duties and tasks. It is contradictory that the unwillingness to seek professional treatment coincides with the expressed need to support and encourage others to do so.