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Framing Effects on Stigma and Help-Seeking Messages Related to Drugs and Alcohol Misuse in the Navy
This project asked how the United States Navy could communicate more effectively with Navy personnel who may require help for drug or alcohol misuse. Communication choices, including the way messages are framed, can affect stigma and individuals' willingness to seek help, so Navy documents, websites, and individual messages should be designed strategically. To inform strategic communication, the research team interviewed experts and conducted focus groups and surveys to obtain enlisted personnel's and officers' perceptions of Navy communication, potential message frames, and organizational factors related to stigma and help-seeking. Results indicate that formal and informal communication affect perceptions of stigma and willingness to seek help. Participants in the study reported that fear-focused themes in formal Navy communication increase stigma and decrease help-seeking, while recovery-based themes have positive effects. Informal stories about help-seekers' experiences influence others' decisions about whether to seek help, and success stories can be particularly effective in reducing stigma and encouraging people to get help. Potential message frames received higher ratings when they presented objective information or focused on positive outcomes. Men responded more positively than women to messages about performance benefits, whereas women responded more positively to messages about personal growth, caretaking, and protecting their careers. Senior officers' perceptions differed significantly from those of enlisted personnel with regard to message frames and perceived organizational support for help-seeking. The report concludes with recommendations to encourage help-seeking by Navy personnel for issues with drugs or alcohol.
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