Veteran Mental Illness and System Justification Theory

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Veteran Mental Illness and System Justification Theory Rates of mental illness are rising among Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This social problem has had significant consequences, such as spikes in homelessness, unemployment and suicides in this population. Many argue there are too many barriers to mental health treatment in a society that stigmatizes mental illness and undervalues mental health care. Research supports this assertion, particularly within the Veteran population (Greene-Shortridge, Britt, & Castro, 2007). System justification theory offers an explanation for why society stigmatizes mental illness in spite of the devastating consequences of treatment underutilization. As noted previously, system justification theory suggests that individuals possess a motive to justify and rationalize the status quo. According to the theory, stereotypes are often used to bolster the status quo because they easily explain differences among groups and thereby justify inequalities. The most commonly held stereotypes about mental illness in Western society are that its sufferers are dangerous, incompetent and personally responsible for their illness (Dickstein, Vogt, Handa & Litz, 2010). Not surprisingly, stereotypes like these have resulted in the persistent stigma around mental illness that exists today. Corrigan, Watson and Ottati (2003) argue this strong stigma has legitimized a historically inequitable system of treatment for those with mental illness. As far back as the Middle Ages, the mentally ill were sent to prisons because they were perceived as dangerous. Beginning in the 19th century, they were transitioned to asylums and hospitals due to the widely held belief that they were not only dangerous, but also i... ... middle of paper ... ...king_of_an_american_soldier%3A Murali, V. & Oyebode, F. (2004). Poverty, Social Inequality and Mental Health. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 10, 216-224. Rovner, J., & Cornish, A. (2013, November 8). White House Releases Long-Awaited Rules On Mental Health. NPR. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from Tanielian, T., & Jaycox, L. (Eds.). (2008). Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from Today, M. (2008, August 15). Multiple Deployments Raise Mental Health Risks. ABC News. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from story?id=5589589 Tyson, A. S. (2005, November 4). Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn To Military. Washington Post. Retrieved April 26, 2014, from dyn/content/article/2005/11/03/AR2005110302528.html

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