The Outward Bound Program and its Effects on Stigma Among Veterans
Forsyth, Ashleigh Anne Sawyer
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Over the last decade, steps have been taken by the Canadian Armed Forces as well as non-government organizations to provide better healthcare and services to military personnel affected by issues that impact their mental health. Current research shows that the stigma towards mental illness remains an issue for many military and Veteran personnel. The purpose of this study was to conduct a program evaluation of the Outward Bound Canada Veterans (OBCV) program with a particular focus on the previously uncovered theory that the program provides a stigma-free environment for participants. An earlier study on the OBCV program found that participants felt the program was stigma-free. For the current study, the program process was reviewed to investigate if, and how this environment was facilitated. To further investigate this aspect of the program, this study also evaluated the impact of this program on perceptions and lived experiences of stigma in participants. An exploratory mixed-methods design was used for this study evaluating three OBCV courses held in 2016. The focus of this design was on the qualitative aspect with pre-post surveys serving to triangulate results. The Endorsed and Anticipated Stigma Inventory (EASI) was selected to explore constructs of stigma beyond barriers to care. The survey results received an 80% (n=20) response rate and the interviews consisted of (n=6). The focus of this study was on the qualitative aspect with the pre- and post surveys serving to triangulate results. The interview questions were designed by the researcher and approved by supervisors. The Endorsed and Anticipated Stigma Inventory (EASI) was selected to explore constructs of stigma beyond barriers to care. Of the 25 individuals that participated in the program 20 completed the surveys and 6 completed the interview process. Results of this study found that the program process of the OBCV program facilitated an environment that was perceived by participants to be stigma-free. This study found evidence that suggests aspects of self-stigma may be positively influenced by participation in this program. This study was able to lend support to the premise that the OBCV program provides a stigma-free environment. This research also provides insights into the lived experiences and impact of stigma in OBCV program participants. This information could be used to inform policy makers and program planners on the current needs of military and Veteran personnel utilizing the mental health services in Canada.