Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mental illness stigma entrenched in American culture; new strategies needed, study finds

Date:
September 16, 2010
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
A new study finds no change in prejudice and discrimination toward people with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems despite a greater embrace by the public of neurobiological explanations for these illnesses. The study raises vexing questions about the effectiveness of campaigns designed to improve health literacy.

A joint study by Indiana University and Columbia University researchers found no change in prejudice and discrimination toward people with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems despite a greater embrace by the public of neurobiological explanations for these illnesses.

Related Articles


The study, published online Sept. 15 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, raises vexing questions about the effectiveness of campaigns designed to improve health literacy. This "disease like any other" approach, supported by medicine and mental health advocates, had been seen as the primary way to reduce widespread stigma in the United States.

"Prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. aren't moving," said IU sociologist Bernice Pescosolido, a leading researcher in this area. "In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. It's time to stand back and rethink our approach."

Stigma, the well-documented reluctance by many to socialize or work with people who have a mental or substance abuse disorder, is considered a major obstacle to effective treatment for many Americans who experience these devastating illnesses. It can produce discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and social relationships, and negatively impact the quality of life for these individuals, their families and friends.

Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the study examined whether American attitudes concerning mental illness have changed during a 10-year period when efforts on many levels and by many groups focused on making Americans aware of the genetic and medical explanations for depression, schizophrenia and substance abuse. While Americans reported more acceptance of these explanations, this did nothing to change prejudice and discrimination, and in some cases, made it worse.

The study involved questions posed to a nationally representative sample of adults as part of the General Social Survey (GSS), a biennial survey that involves face-to-face interviews. Around 1,956 adults in the 1996 and 2006 GSS first listened to a vignette involving a person who had major depression, schizophrenia or alcohol dependency, and then they answered a series of questions.

Some key findings include:

In 2006, 67 percent of the public attributed major depression to neurobiological causes, compared with 54 percent in 1996.

High proportions of respondents supported treatment with overall increases in the proportion endorsing treatment from a doctor, and more specifically from psychiatrists, for treatment of alcohol dependence (79 percent in 2006 compared to 61 percent in 1996) and major depression (85 percent in 2006 compared to 75 percent in 1996).

Holding a belief in neurobiological causes for these disorders increased the likelihood of support for treatment but was generally unrelated to stigma. Where associated, the effect was to increase, not decrease, community rejection of the person described in the vignettes.

Pescosolido said the team's comparative study provides real data for the first time on whether the "landscape for prejudice for people with mental illness" is changing. It reinforces conversations begun by influential institutions, such as the Carter Center, about the need for a new approach toward combating stigma.

"Often mental health advocates end up singing to the choir," Pescosolido said. "We need to involve groups in each community to talk about these issues which affect nearly every family in American in some way. This is in everyone's interest."

The research article suggests that stigma reduction efforts focus on the person rather than on the disease, and emphasize the abilities and competencies of people with mental health problems. Pescosolido says well-established civic groups -- groups normally not involved with mental health issues -- could be very effective in making people aware of the need for inclusion and the importance of increasing the dignity and rights of citizenship for persons with mental illnesses.

Co-authors include Jack K. Martin, Schuessler Institute for Social Research at IU; J. Scott Long and Tait R. Medina, Department of Sociology in IU's College of Arts and Sciences; and Jo C. Phelan and Bruce G. Link, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bernice A. Pescosolido, Jack K. Martin, J. Scott Long, Tait R. Medina, Jo C. Phelan, and Bruce G. Link. 'A Disease Like Any Other'? A Decade of Change in Public Reactions to Schizophrenia, Depression, and Alcohol Dependence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2010; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09121743

Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "Mental illness stigma entrenched in American culture; new strategies needed, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915080437.htm>.
Indiana University. (2010, September 16). Mental illness stigma entrenched in American culture; new strategies needed, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915080437.htm
Indiana University. "Mental illness stigma entrenched in American culture; new strategies needed, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915080437.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins