Stigma: An Everyday Battle Faced by Veterans with PTSD

Stigma involves a series of discriminating acts against someone based on a specific characteristic that is perceived as different from the norm, such as mental illness, health condition, or disability. Although many studies have already been done about the stigma of mental health, data known about the stigma associated with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is still insufficient. Among Veterans, an estimated 500,000 soldiers who served in the wars over the past 13 years have been diagnosed with PTSD. The common risk factor that may lead them to PTSD is their combat experience.

To dig more in-depth about the stigma associated with PTSD, listed below are the four types of stigma:

·    Public Stigma The general public discriminates against a person with a mental illness.

·    Self-Stigma The person with mental illness believes the stereotypes.

·    Label Avoidance, The person with a mental illness, fears social stigma that leads to avoidance of seeking treatment.

·    Structural Stigma This includes the social and institutional policies and practices that may negatively impact the opportunities, resources, and wellbeing of a person.

Ignorance about mental illness can cause significant problems. To be specific, service members in the military diagnosed with PTSD may specifically fear the thought of others viewing them as unfit for their role and may later be discharged as a result. In the military, having PTSD may also indicate weakness and incapability of protecting others. Stigma can prevent military service members from seeking treatment. 

Furthermore, treatment-seeking veterans with PTSD were labeled as “dangerous,” “violent,” or “crazy.” Approximately 28% did not think anyone could help them. Stigma leads to delays in treatment and reduces the chances of a person with mental illness receiving appropriate and adequate care. This may eventually lead to adverse outcomes, such as causing people to lose sight of their abilities and goals in life and making it harder for people to find jobs and support their needs.

Although the causes and impacts brought by PTSD to a Veteran are disheartening, there are several ways he or she can do to help manage perceived stigma about mental illness.

·   Be reminded of not being alone as many people also experience mental illness

·   Find support and stay connected with others

·   Speak out and educate people on the realities of mental illness to put an end to the stigma of PTSD and other mental illnesses

It’s somehow discouraging to think that despite advances in psychiatry and psychology in our age today, a great deal of stigma remains. People stay less knowledgeable about mental illness which makes stigma to continue being a reality. Hopefully, the world may come to a point where the stigma of mental health no longer exists.

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