The role of different stigma perceptions in treatment seeking and dropout among active duty military personnel

Thomas W Britt, Kristen S Jennings, Janelle H Cheung, Cynthia L S Pury, Heidi M Zinzow
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 2015, 38 (2): 142-9

OBJECTIVE: Many military personnel with mental health problems do not seek treatment from mental health professionals, and if they do seek treatment, they drop out of treatment before receiving the recommended number of sessions. The present study examined the role of 4 different stigma perceptions on these outcomes: perceived stigma to career, perceived stigma of differential treatment, self-stigma from seeking treatment, and stigmatizing perceptions of soldiers who seek treatment.

METHOD: One thousand three hundred twenty-four active duty soldiers completed a self-report survey assessment that included measures of the 4 different stigma perceptions, indices of mental health symptoms, receipt of mental health treatment, and whether they had dropped out of treatment before it was completed.

RESULTS: Participants screening positive for a mental health problem reported higher scores on all 4 stigma perceptions. All 4 stigma perceptions were each associated with a reduced likelihood of treatment seeking when considered individually, but only stigmatizing beliefs about those who seek treatment were uniquely associated with treatment seeking. Perceived stigma for one's career and differential treatment from others, along with self-stigma from treatment seeking, were associated with an increased probability of dropping out of mental health treatment. Self-stigma from treatment seeking was the only unique predictor of dropout.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Different stigma perceptions were associated with treatment seeking and dropout. Further longitudinal research is needed to examine how stigma perceptions influence these important outcomes. Practitioners need to be aware of how different stigma perceptions can influence treatment seeking and potentially target stigma perceptions during treatment to prevent dropout.

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