Application of mental illness stigma theory to Chinese societies: synthesis and new directions

L H Yang
Singapore Medical Journal 2007, 48 (11): 977-85
The rapidly-evolving literature concerning stigma towards psychiatric illnesses among Chinese groups has demonstrated pervasive negative attitudes and discriminatory treatment towards people with mental illness. However, a systematic integration of current stigma theories and empirical findings to examine how stigma processes may occur among Chinese ethnic groups has yet to be undertaken. This paper first introduces several major stigma models, and specifies how these models provide a theoretical basis as to how stigma broadly acts on individuals with schizophrenia through three main mechanisms: direct individual discrimination, internalisation of negative stereotypes, and structural discrimination. In Chinese societies, the particular manifestations of stigma associated with schizophrenia are shaped by cultural meanings embedded within Confucianism, the centrality of "face", and pejorative aetiological beliefs of mental illnesses. These cultural meanings are reflected in severe and culturally-specific expressions of stigma in Chinese societies. Implications and directions to advance stigma research within Chinese cultural settings are provided.

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