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2015 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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3030 — The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Employment-Related Outcomes among OEF/OIF Veterans

Fox-Galalis AB, Women's Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD; VA Boston HCS; Vogt DS, Women's Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD; VA Boston HCS; Department of Psychiatry, Boston University;

Objectives:
Veterans with mental health problems may face a number of challenges to finding and keeping employment, as well as performing well in the civilian workforce. Research suggests that individuals with mental illness anticipate and experience discrimination (i.e., stigma) in the workplace, and that concerns about confirming negative stereotypes of the mentally ill may negatively impact work performance (i.e., stereotype threat). In the present study, we examine the extent to which Veterans endorse stigma in the workplace, as well as whether concerns about stigma are related to important work outcomes (e.g., employment status, job satisfaction, hours worked, perceived underemployment, work performance, and overall work functioning).

Methods:
Data were collected as part of a HSRandD funded longitudinal study of work and family functioning in OEF/OIF Veterans. Veterans were assessed on their mental health approximately two years after deployment (T1); work outcomes were assessed two years later. The sample was limited to Veterans who met criteria for probable depression, PTSD, or alcohol misuse at T1(N = 253). We then used correlations and linear regression to examine the relationship between stigma and work outcomes.

Results:
Veterans reported substantial concerns about stigma in the workplace: 53% were worried about limited career options, 49% felt their coworkers would think they were not capable of performing their jobs, and 33% felt their supervisors would treat them unfairly. Endorsing mental illness stigma was associated with decreased job satisfaction (r = -.18), working fewer days per week (r = -.14), lower overall work functioning (r = -.26), and being unemployed (r = -.14). Regression results indicated that stigma was significantly associated with decreased work functioning (Beta = -.19, p = 0.003), controlling for job satisfaction, having a current mental illness, and hours worked during the past month.

Implications:
Experiencing mental illness stigma in the workplace is a common concern among OEF/OIF Veterans, and was associated with decreased work functioning. These findings demonstrate that the negative effects of mental illness stigma extend beyond mental health treatment seeking to affect other important domains of Veteran's lives.

Impacts:
Efforts to improve Veterans' post-deployment reintegration into the civilian workforce should examine ways in which the negative effects of mental illness stigma might be mitigated.