Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School

Communication Studies and Theatre

First Advisor

Jennifer Anderson


mental health stigma, military communication, PTSD, stigma communication, stigma management communication, veterans


Mental health conditions are arguably the most prominent disabling medical condition that military service members endure. Veterans with combat-related PTSD often refrain from seeking mental health treatment due to the stigma attached. Concealing PTSD or attempting to cope without professional help can lead to extreme and lifethreatening consequences including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Attaining a better understanding of stigma management strategies is important because it has the ability to help veterans better manage stigma in the future. Thus, the current study uses stigma management communication theory (Meisenbach, 2010) to uncover the ways in which veterans with PTSD communicatively manage their stigmatized identity. In addition, this study uses Smith’s (2007) stigma communication framework to evaluate the military discourse and public discourse surrounding veterans with PTSD. In-depth one-on-one interviews were conducted with 10 United States veterans to dig deep into the personal experiences of those who have developed combat-related PTSD and learn more about how veterans communicatively manage mental health stigma. The results show that veterans with PTSD manage stigma using all six major strategies of stigma management communication. Further, all elements of stigma communication were represented in military and public discourse. Interestingly, veterans sometimes managed stigma by blending contradictory strategies together. In addition, three new stigma management communication strategies appeared. Not only do these results offer advancement for communication theory, but they could aid in the development of military training, military policy, mental health assessments, interventions, and destigmatizing campaigns.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Veterans -- Mental health.
Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Stigma (Social psychology)
Psychic trauma -- Social aspects.
Help-seeking behavior.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright