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Stigma in the military: Identifying stigma through the language of a deployed Australian military population

A world-first study exploring new ways of detecting stigma through language to assist the ADF

Stigmatisation of military personnel

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is an organisation striving for resilience, team cohesion and operational effectiveness. For more than ten years ADF programs have aimed to address issues of workforce diversity to foster an inclusive work environment where individuals feel appreciated and valued.

However, there is evidence that stigmatisation of military personnel returning from operational service – and experiencing certain mental health conditions – still exists.

This world first study aimed to identify the presence and characteristics of stigma in the language of a group of service personnel who had deployed on operations. In doing so, it specifically sought to test methods of detecting stigma and provide information that may assist Defence and the ADF in monitoring and managing stigma.

Based on the hypothesis that characteristics of stigma can be identified by analysing language, our world-first study drilled down on 40 interviews with full-time employed mothers who had been deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations.

The industry-developed Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) tool was used to analyse speech patterns and calculate the proportion of words that refer to emotions and ways of thinking, while the (Stylometric Author and Predictive Radicalisation (SAPR) program converted each interview into a ‘signature’ of a person’s writing based on personality markers. A thematic analysis further examined the text for characteristics of stigma and its impact.

  • Team/Investigators

    Dr Leanne Glenny (University of South Australia), Dr David Kernot (DSTG), Dr Collette Snowden (University of South Australia), Associate Professor Miranda Van Hooff (Military and Emergency Services and Health Australia (MESHA)), Dr Ellie Lawrence-Wood (Phoenix Australia), Kerry Green (University of South Australia), Catherine Son (University of South Australia)

  • Funding Body

    Defence Innovation Partnership Grant

  • Year Commenced

    July 2017

  • Expected Completion Date

    February 2020

  • Contribution

    Investigator (Miranda Van Hooff)/Industry Partner (Karen May)

  • MeSH Terms

    language, linguistic markers, military, deployment, stigma, mothers, females

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