Stigma of Mental Illness No Better in U.S.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Sept. 16 (UPI) — A stigma regarding serious mental illness and substance abuse persists and may be increasing, despite medical explanations, U.S. researchers say.

Bernice Pescosolido, a sociologist at Indiana University in Bloomington and colleagues at Columbia University says the study findings raise questions about the effectiveness of campaigns intended to reduce the stigma by reinforcing the idea the conditions are a “disease like any other.”


“Prejudice and discrimination in the United States aren’t moving,” Pescosolido says in a statement. “In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. It’s time to stand back and rethink our approach.”

The stigma often result in barriers to people seeking treatment.

The study involved a nationally representative sample of 1,956 adults as part of the General Social Survey, a biennial survey that involves face-to-face interviews.

Participants in the 1996 and 2006 surveys listened to a vignette involving a person who had major depression, schizophrenia or alcohol dependency, and then answered a series of questions.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, finds in 2006, 67 percent of the public attributed major depression to neurobiological causes, compared with 54 percent in 1996.

However, even if people say they believed neurobiological caused the disorders and they favored treatment, the effect was to increase, not decrease, community rejection — stigma — of the person described in the vignettes.

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