Preliminary Evidence of Differences Between Stigma Source Versus Type With Individual Functioning Variables in National Guard/Reserve Troops

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Abstract

Extant military studies show that stigma has a variable association with seeking mental health treatment and mental health distress. Previous studies used a general measure of stigma that does not differentiate between stigma source or type. Stigma source can be either self-perceived or perceived from others, and stigma type can include stigma for disorder or stigma for help-seeking. Civilian literature demonstrates that self-stigma is more detrimental to individual functioning than stigma perceived from others, and prior studies in National Guard service members (NGSMs) show that self-stigma and stigma perceived from unit leaders were associated with lower help-seeking intentions relative to stigma perceived from unit members or family members. No military study has simultaneously explored the associations of demographic and distress variables with various stigma types and sources. To determine if prior mixed findings were due to the use of a general measure of stigma, NGSMs (n = 163) completed demographic and distress measures, as well as stigma source (e.g., self, leader) and type (i.e., general, disorder, help-seeking) assessments. General stigma was positively associated with all stigma types and sources as well as a college education. Disorder stigma was positively associated with stigma from nonmilitary sources, and self-stigma for help-seeking was negatively associated with help-seeking intentions. Likelihood of deploying again was positively associated with disorder and help-seeking stigma when perceived from someone in authority. Given the unique associations observed, future studies should utilize specific measures of stigma when examining factors related to postdeployment functioning.

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