The Thin Line between ”Crazy” and ”Hero”: Exploring the Multiple Statuses of US Veterans in a Work-therapy Program


This paper explores how US veterans with mental health problems perceive their own identity.


This study explores how US veterans who suffer from mental health problems navigate between two primary statuses: national hero and mental patient. The analysis reveals a more nuanced understanding than previous research, which has focused on a simple negative association between positive veteran identity and stigma. Qualitative evidence collected in a work-therapy program for veterans demonstrates that the status of mental patient became salient in peer-group activities, where it engendered a sense of solidarity and mutual empathy, and in interactions outside the mental health care facility, where it involved a sense of stigma. The status of being a national hero emerged in interactions with casual visitors from whom material contributions were sought, but did not reinforce a sense of positive veteran identity because veterans were aware of its instrumental nature. When leaving the program, a strong sense of stigma emerged despite the possibility of embracing the veteran identity.

Full Reference

Feinstein, Y. "The Thin Line between "Crazy" and "Hero", Armed Forces & Society.Vol 41, Issue 1, pp. 3 - 22.