'Forensic' labelling: an empirical assessment of its effects on self-stigma for people with severe mental illness

James D Livingston, Katherine R Rossiter, Simon N Verdun-Jones
Psychiatry Research 2011 June 30, 188 (1): 115-22
Increasingly, specialized 'forensic' mental health services are being developed to address the criminogenic and clinical needs of people with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system. Theoretically, the construction of such specialized services can produce simultaneous positive benefits and negative consequences. This mixed methods study examined and compared the level of self-stigma that was experienced by people who receive compulsory community-based treatment services in the forensic (n=52) and civil (n=39) mental health systems of British Columbia, Canada. The quantitative findings indicate that 'forensic' labelling was not associated with elevated levels of self-stigma. Quantitative level of self-stigma was significantly associated with psychiatric symptom severity, history of incarceration, and history of homelessness. The qualitative findings suggest that access to high-quality, well-resourced forensic mental health services may, for some service users, come at the risk of increased exposure to social and structural stigma. Together, these findings reveal some of the strengths and weaknesses that are associated with organizing forensic mental health services using a specialized service delivery model.

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