Social Work with Veterans in Rural Communities: Perceptions of Stigma as a Barrier to Accessing Mental Health Care

  • Rebecca L. Stotzer
  • Julia M. Whealin
  • Dawna Darden
Keywords: Mental health stigma, Veterans, OIF/OEF, rural social work, barriers to care


The nearly decade long efforts in the Global War on Terror have led to increasing numbers of Veterans of the armed services returning to rural locations, but little is known about their needs. However, recent research suggests that rural Veterans face a host of issues, but perhaps more importantly, are facing heightened levels of stigma in rural areas related to their health and mental health. This paper examines how mental health stigma in the military may feed into stigma in rural communities and serve as an additional barrier for Veterans in rural areas who are struggling with mental health concerns. Recommendations for the unique role of social workers in serving these Veterans, as well as addressing community issues around stigma, are addressed.