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Veteran Reintegration and Stigma

Updated: Apr 30

Many of you who are reading this article have either experienced or witnessed reintegration challenges in one form or another. Reintegration used to be defined as the resumption of age, gender, or culturally appropriate roles in your family, community, and workplace, as well as the process of transitioning back into personal and organizational roles following deployment. More recently, reintegration has been developed into a dynamic process of adapting back into culturally, personal, individual, and multidimensional role of functioning or participation in life roles. Although reintegration is often thought of as a positive series of events, it can entail times of personal stress and difficulty for individuals, family, work and can be an exacerbation of deployment-related stress conditions that dramatically change as a result of triggers during this time of transition. Overall, veteran reintegration is a process where service members experience a cultural transition from service to civilian life. For many veterans, the move from service to civilian life is a complicated process that involves establishing a “new normal,” wellness, and financial stability, along with other things. This includes the ability to secure and a new job, rehabilitate from injury, uphold a sense of worth, deal with social stigmas, and adjust to the new rhythm in daily life with family and friends.

While many men and women who serve in the military adjust well to civilian life following service, a significant minority experience at least some difficulty making the transition. Statistically, nearly 44% of post-9/11 Veterans report reintegration issues (Morin, 2011). This includes difficulties adjusting to employment, reestablishing socially, and making family connections. When compared to the civilian population, veterans are at higher risk of suicide, family problems, divorce, mental health problems, substance abuse problems, unemployment, and homelessness. In reality, many veterans faces face a transition disorder where they are happy to be back home but have little knowledge of how to integrate back into society. When veterans attempt to transition back to civilian life, they face the same problems as everyone else does that endures stressful transitions in their lives. Veterans are also very proud and feel they can handle anything, so when they experience issues or challenges during reintegration, they do not ask for help and try to fix their problems by themselves.

When it comes to the social stigma of veterans, this has always been a topic that has changed over the course of time. Many of you experienced first-hand what society felt of you after the Vietnam war. There are different perspectives or stigmas that society views veterans from now, and there is also the perspective or fear of a veteran’s self-stigma as well. Society has established an enormous concern and stigma that the physical and psychological wounds of millions of America’s veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars pose too much of a security risk to potential employers, fellow workers, and workplace patrons. Many employers are naturally wary of hiring veterans because of the possible fear of mental health issues. Nearly 46 percent of employers said mental health issues were challenges in employees with military experience. A 2011 survey of 831 hiring managers found that 39 percent were "less favorable" toward hiring military personnel when considering war-related psychological disorders.

The media has also fueled this concern with news on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with prospective employers in light of the recent Homeland Security debacle, debates on the psychological effects of war, and shootings occurring from disgruntled military veterans. Recent high-profile news about veteran violence with links to PTSD speaks louder than the realities of the illness. Six to eight percent of all Americans will develop PTSD in their lifetime, which indicates it is not only veteran-specific. Statistically, only 20 percent of all Iraq or Afghanistan veterans will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder brought on by living through extraordinarily stressful or life-threatening events; the more tours of duty, the higher the risk of PTSD. PTSD can be devastating if untreated, leading to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and to the potential for suicide increases. The suicide rate for veterans is one in five of all suicides in the U.S. “Most veterans do not develop PTSD. The minority that does have the same kinds of reactions of people exposed to a hurricane or a car accident,” The PTSD fear factor isn’t new. This stigma of the crazy war veteran has been seen before. It was especially harsh after Vietnam when the nation didn't have the kind of support for veterans who serve in the military that they have today.

While experts welcome a greater public awareness of the difficulty’s veterans may face, that growing understanding might work against them when it comes to presumptions of mental health. We are fighting the big media monster of television, news, and the internet. With all of the movies being made, how can you argue with a civilian’s thinking, “How could veterans not be damaged by something like that in combat?” We are always going to be fighting social stigma’s, so never give up. This motto has been engrained into our blood, NEVER GIVE UP!

Image provided by Midjourney (April 2023). Retrieved from

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