Destigmatizing Experiences of Combat Veterans Engaged in Civilian Disaster Relief: Implications for Community Transition
Keywords:Stigma, contact, combat veterans, qualitative, Modified Labeling Theory
Combat veterans possess some attributes of differentness that may cause others in society to create stigmatized perceptions of them and devalue their skills. Direct interaction/contact allows targeted individuals—in this case, combat veterans—to demonstrate their value by dispelling negative attitudes or beliefs others may have of them. A previous study reported that the disaster relief setting facilitates contact among combat veterans and non-military civilians. This study applied Modified Labeling Theory (MLT) to assess if the stigma and labeling experience among combat veterans volunteering in disaster settings provides a nuanced understanding. Semi-structured interviews were used to assess perceptions of male Team Rubicon (TR) members (n=9) who provide disaster relief in civilian settings. All participants served in combat. Data were thematically analyzed. Findings suggest 1) combat veterans were not stigmatized by their label; and 2) personal contact with civilians impacted by disaster helped TR members a) to demonstrate their value, and b) feel more optimistic about connecting with civilians in other contexts. Our findings suggest that veterans working with peer combat veterans and civilians in disaster settings provided a destigmatizing condition whereby combat veterans felt less stigmatized by others and more interpersonally connected with civilians. It is recommended that since the majority of services for veterans come from civilian community providers, it is imperative that providers be sensitive to military culture and experiences of those serving in combat to avoid further stigmatization of veterans.
Aboud, F., & Mendelson, M. (1996). Determinants of friendship selection and quality: Developmental perspectives. In W. Bukowski, A. Newcomb, & W. Hartup (Eds.), The company they keep: Friendship in childhood & adolescence (pp. 66-86). NY: University of Cambridge.
Ashley, W., & Brown, J. C. (2015). The impact of combat status on veterans’ attitudes toward help seeking: The hierarchy of combat elitism. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 12, 534-542. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15433714.2014.992695
Badenoch, B. (2008). Being a brain-wise therapist: A practical guide to neurobiology. NY: Norton.
Blais, R. K., & Renshaw, K. D. (2013). Stigma and demographic correlates of help‐seeking intentions in returning service members. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26, 77-85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.21772
Boeije, H. (2002). A purposeful approach to the constant comparative method in the analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality and Quantity, 36, 391-409. doi: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020909529486
Britt, T. W., Greene-Shortridge, T. M., Brink, S., Nguyen, Q. B., Rath, J., Cox, A. L., ... & Castro, C. A. (2008). Perceived stigma and barriers to care for psychological treatment: Implications for reactions to stressors in different contexts. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 317-335. doi: https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2008.27.4.317
Brooks, G. (1999). A few good men: Military socialization and gender role strain. Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity Bulletin, 4, 9-11.
Brown, P. C. (1984). Legacies of a war: Treatment considerations with Vietnam veterans and their families. Social Work, 29, 372-379. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/29.4.372
Coll, J. E., Weiss, E. L., & Draves, P., & Dyer, D. (2012).The impact of military cultural awareness, experience, attitudes, and education on clinician self‐efficacy in the treatment of veterans. Journal of International Continuing Social Work Education, 15(1), 39‐48.
Corrigan, P. W. (2005). On the stigma of mental illness: Practical strategies for research and social change. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/10887-000
Corrigan, P., & Kleinlein, P. (2005). The impact of mental illness stigma. In P. Corrigan (Ed.), On the stigma of mental illness: Practical strategies for research and social change (pp. 11-44). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/10887-001
Danish, S. J., & Antonides, B. J. (2013). The challenges of reintegration for service members and their families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83, 550-558. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/ajop.12054
Disaster Response Veterans Service Organization & Team Rubicon. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://www.teamrubiconusa.org/
Goffman, E. (2009). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Greden, J. F., Valenstein, M., Spinner, J., Blow, A., Gorman, L. A., Dalack, G. W., ... & Kees, M. (2010). Buddy‐to‐Buddy, a citizen soldier peer support program to counteract stigma, PTSD, depression, and suicide. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1208, 90-97. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05719.x
Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D. I., & Koffman, R. L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. New England Journal of Medicine, 351, 13-22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa040603
Karp, D. A. (2006). Is it me or my meds? Living with antidepressants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674039339
Keats, P. A. (2010). Soldiers working internationally: Impacts of masculinity, military culture, and operational stress on cross-cultural adaptation. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 32, 290-303. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-010-9107-z
Kim, P. Y., Thomas, J. L., Wilk, J. E., Castro, C. A., & Hoge, C. W. (2010). Stigma, barriers to care, and use of mental health services among active duty and National Guard soldiers after combat. Psychiatric Services, 61, 582-588. doi: https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.2010.61.6.582
Klein, J. (2015). Charlie Mike: A true story of heroes who brought their mission home. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Kranke, D., & Floersch, J. (2009). Mental health stigma among adolescents: Interventions for school social workers. School Social Work Journal, 34 (1), 28-42.
Kranke, D., Floersch, J., Townsend, L., & Munson, M. (2010). Stigma experience among adolescents prescribed psychiatric medications. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(4), 496-505. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.11.002
Kranke, D., Saia, R., Gin, J., Heslin, K., & Dobalian, A. (2016). Applying an ecological strengths-based perspective to veterans’ experience of reintegration into civilian life. Military Behavioral Health, 4(1), 75-81. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/21635781.2015.1119771
Leavey, J. E. (2005). Youth experiences of living with mental health problems: Emergence, loss, adaptation and recovery (ELAR). Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 24, 109-126. doi: https://doi.org/10.7870/cjcmh-2005-0018
Link, B. G., Cullen, F. T., Struening, E., Shrout, P. E., & Dohrenwend, B. P. (1989). A modified labeling theory approach to mental disorders: An empirical assessment. American Sociological Review, 54, 400-423. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/2095613
Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363-385. doi: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.363
McCann, I. L., & Pearlman, L. A. (1990). Vicarious traumatization: A framework for understanding the psychological effects of working with victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(1), 131-149. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00975140
Muhr, T. (1993). Atlas.ti software development. Berlin: Scientific Software Development.
Padgett, D. K. (2008). Qualitative methods in social work research (vol. 36). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Two decades of developments in qualitative inquiry: A personal, experiential perspective. Qualitative Social Work, 1, 261-283. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1473325002001003636
Sayer, N. A., Carlson, K. F., & Frazier, P. A. (2014). Reintegration challenges in US service members and veterans following combat deployment. Social Issues and Policy Review, 8, 33-73. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/sipr.12001
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [VA]. (2011). Fact sheet: VA services for posttraumatic stress disorder. Washington, DC: Office of Patient Care Services and Office of Mental Health Services.
Weber, R., & Crocker, J. (1983). Cognitive processes in the revision of stereotypic beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 961-977. doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991
Weiss, E. L., & Albright, D. L. (2014). Introduction to the special issue: Mental health care for military service members, veterans and their families: Opportunities for social work. Social Work in Mental Health, 12 (5-6), 387-390. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15332985.2014.927408
Weiss, E., Coll, J. E., & Metal, M. (2011). The influence of military culture and veteran worldviews on mental health treatment: Practice implications for combat veteran help-seeking and wellness. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 1, 75-86. doi: https://doi.org/10.18848/2156-8960/CGP/v01i02/41168
Woolf, A. G. (2012). Competing narratives: Hero and PTSD stories told by male veterans returning home, Graduate Theses and Dissertations at University of South Florida.
Copyright to works published in Advances in Social Work is retained by the author(s).