(334) 844-3299
Detailed Record
Share this Article

Military and veteran help-seeking behaviors: Role of mental health stigma and leadership

APA Citation:

McGuffin, J. J., Riggs, S. A., Raiche, E. M., & Romero, D. H. (2021). Military and veteran help-seeking behaviors: Role of mental health stigma and leadership. Military Psychology, 33(5), 332-340. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2021.1962181

Abstract Created by REACH:

Stigma is a common barrier to help-seeking behaviors for Service members/Veterans (SM/Vs) with mental health symptoms. Using a sample of 232 SM/Vs from a larger study, this study examined the associations of military superiors’ destructive leadership (e.g., embarrassing SM/Vs) and supportive leadership (e.g., concern for SM/Vs’ safety), as well as SM/Vs’ perceived public stigma (e.g., being viewed as weak), internalized self-stigma (e.g., reduced self-confidence), and help-seeking behaviors. The study also examined differences in help-seeking behaviors based on military branch. Overall, destructive leadership was associated with SM/Vs experiencing more internalized self-stigma, which, in turn, was associated with fewer help-seeking behaviors. By contrast, supportive leadership was associated with less self-stigma and more help-seeking behaviors.


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Active duty service member


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


McGuffin, James J., Riggs, Shelley A., Raiche, Emily M., Romero, Daniel H.


Mental health stigma has been identified as a barrier to help-seeking in the United States. This may be particularly salient for military personnel who tend to report higher mental health stigma than the general population. Evidence suggests that both supportive and destructive military leadership are related to service members’ attitudes toward seeking help. In the current study, a sample of military service members and Veterans (N = 232) completed an online survey regarding mental health stigma, previous experiences with military leaders, and mental health help-seeking behaviors. Findings indicated that destructive and supportive leadership experiences were significantly related to self stigma, public stigma, and help-seeking. Military members and Veterans who experienced destructive leadership were more likely to report internalized mental health stigma, which decreased the likelihood of seeking help. Supportive leadership, on the other hand, was associated with greater likelihood of seeking help for mental health concerns, and was indirectly related to help-seeking through lower self-stigma. Findings suggest that the military leadership style plays a significant role in service members’ and Veterans’ willingness to seek assistance for mental health concerns.

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

Taylor & Francis

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, JJM


military, veteran, help-seeking, stigma, leadership

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2022

This website uses cookies to improve the browsing experience of our users. Please review Auburn University’s Privacy Statement for more information. Accept & Close