School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Michael Howard


stigma, barriers, mental health, military, leadership, service member




The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the experiences of active-duty servicemembers regarding mental health stigma and help-seeking behavior. Due to the trauma of intense combat, military servicemembers experience mental health problems at an alarming rate, and despite increased awareness and access to mental health resources, they are still reluctant to seek treatment. This study explored the lived experiences of military servicemembers with an aim to address the following research question: “How do military service members experience overcoming mental health stigma and decide to seek treatment while still on active duty?” Thirteen participants from the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps were administered interviews inquiring into their experiences with mental health via Zoom and phone. Themes emerged in two categories: “Stigma” and “Overcoming Stigma.” The associations of common themes between the two categories that included 50% or more of the 13 participants are presented. The three strongest themes participants recounted as factors that led to deciding to seek mental health services were the realization that professional help is needed to address mental health concerns, personal growth in deciding to seek mental health services and trust in others. Because of the intrinsic motivational nature of these factors, the researcher concluded that overcoming stigma is unteachable. However, there are practical ways to reduce external stigma in the military, including educating military leaders, servicemembers, and family members about mental health and the need for treatment if warranted.

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