The relationship between mental illness severity and stigma

W Gaebel, H Zäske, A E Baumann
Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. Supplementum 2006, (429): 41-5

OBJECTIVE: To investigate influencing factors for lay perception of mental illness severity and their effects on the stigma of mental illness.

METHOD: Selective review including attitude surveys assessing social distance towards different diagnostic labels, and attitudes towards treatment professions, treatment strategies, and psychopharmacotherapy.

RESULTS: Lays differentiate in their attitudes towards people with mental illness according to the given diagnostic label, the involved treatment professions or institutions, the applied treatment methods, and the perceived psychosocial disability.

CONCLUSION: Beside perceived treatment intensity and diagnostic label, the perception of social disability of mentally ill people accounts for a differentiated stigma. The question arises how anti-stigma-programmes can include the topic of social disability into their messages without risking to strengthen the stigma of mental illness.

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