Masters Thesis

Veterans' perceptions of public mental health stigma and its impact on mental health treatment utilization during and after military service

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between veterans’ perceptions of mental health stigma and its impact on mental health service utilization. Most importantly, this study examined whether the public stigma experienced through their military service affects veterans from accessing mental health services after they separate from the military. This descriptive study consisted of a quantitative survey designed to examine three variables connected to barriers in mental health treatment: detection of mental health concerns, leadership and peer influence of mental health treatment in the military, and whether these perceptions change after military service. There were a total of 64 participants in this study, each of whom completed an anonymous online survey that consisted of 35 questions. The results revealed that there was a high perception of mental health stigma from military leaders and peers across the sample of participants. Data also revealed that the majority of veterans did not believe they were adequately assessed to receive mental health treatment during their active service, and there was an increase in the self-report of mental health illness after military service. Strategies for social workers intervening with military service personnel and veterans on a micro, mezzo and macro level are discussed.