Combating Public Stigma of Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Cultivating Self-compassion
The public stigma of mental illness has the potential to influence self-stigma - which in turn affects treatment seeking for military veterans with PTSD. In order to increase mental health treatment seeking, strategies are needed to reduce public stigma of PTSD, a largely under-researched area. Media coverage highlighting veteran status in acts of violence can alter perceptions of veterans and may contribute to public stigma. Self-compassion - kindness and understanding exhibited toward the self - is associated with empathy, perspective-taking, and prosocial attitudes, yet it is unknown if inducing self-compassion results in reduced public stigma. The aim of this study was to develop a novel means of reducing public stigma in response to media depictions of military veterans with PTSD and violence, using a brief self-compassion exercise. The study utilized a 2 (Induction: State Self-compassion or Writing Control) x 2 (Media: Stigmatizing or Neutral) between-subjects design to investigate whether self-compassion will buffer the impact of media on self-reported stigma towards military veterans (i.e., general stigma, desired social distance, perceived dangerousness). However, as there were no significant differences in state self-compassion between induction groups, the groups were collapsed and a series of moderation models were conducted with levels of state self-compassion as the moderating variable. Article type had significant direct effect on all stigma outcomes; however, there were no other significant direct effects or interaction with state self-compassion. Implications of the current study and future research directions are discussed.