[The stigma of mental illness: concepts, forms, and consequences]

Nicolas Rüsch, Matthias C Angermeyer, Patrick W Corrigan
Psychiatrische Praxis 2005, 32 (5): 221-32

OBJECTIVE: Persons with mental illness frequently encounter public stigma and may suffer from self-stigma. We aim to clarify the concept of mental illness stigma and discuss important consequences for people with mental illness.

METHOD: A search of scientific literature on mental illness stigma was conducted with a focus on conceptually relevant empirical studies.

RESULTS: After giving a conceptual overview of stigma, we elaborate on the consequences of stigma, focussing on self-stigma/empowerment, coping behaviour, fear of stigma as a barrier to using health services, and on structural discrimination. Main strategies to reduce stigma -- protest, education, and contact -- are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS: Stigma is of central importance to persons with mental illness, both to how they experience their illness and its consequences and whether they use available health services. Well-designed anti-stigma initiatives will help to diminish the impact of mental illness stigma.

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