This study explores how US veterans who suffer from mental health problems navigate between two primary statuses: national hero and mental patient. The analysis reveals a more nuanced understanding than previous research, which has focused on a simple negative association between positive veteran identity and stigma. Qualitative evidence collected in a work-therapy program for veterans demonstrates that the status of mental patient became salient in peer-group activities, where it engendered a sense of solidarity and mutual empathy, and in interactions outside the mental health care facility, where it involved a sense of stigma. The status of being a national hero emerged in interactions with casual visitors from whom material contributions were sought, but did not reinforce a sense of positive veteran identity because veterans were aware of its instrumental nature. When leaving the program, a strong sense of stigma emerged despite the possibility of embracing the veteran identity.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2013.
- Mental health care
- National hero
- Symbolic interactionism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Safety Research