Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Turner, Lynn H.

Second Advisor

Goldzwig, Steven R.

Third Advisor

Garner, Ana C.


Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, over 2.5 million active duty U.S. military service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan (Knobloch & Wilson, 2015). Of those who return as veterans, twenty percent experience serious mental health problems, and only 30-40% of them seek help or treatment (Tanielian & Jaycox, 2008; Wilson, Gettings, Hall, & Pastor, 2015). Recently, the military has increased efforts to encourage help-seeking behaviors among service members and to normalize mental health treatment. However, the military’s masculine culture and emphasis on strength and toughness inhibits the success of these efforts. The present studies investigate the tension between military masculinity and mental health help-seeking behaviors. Study 1 uses ideological criticism to examine the recruitment websites of the four main branches of the military in order to assess the ways in which they communicate about masculine values and mental health. Study 2 presents an ideological analysis of two memoirs from individuals who have experienced life in the military and mental health problems upon returning home. The authors’ accounts are evaluated in comparison to the messages portrayed on the websites in order to determine whether real veterans have experiences that reflect the messages conveyed on recruitment websites. The two studies reveal what the military communicates about its culture and about mental health (Study 1) and what service members actually experience of military culture and mental health (Study 2). Suggestions for the normalization of mental health treatment among service members are discussed.