Socio-demographic variables and perceptual moderators related to mental health stigma

Sean Stickney, Daniel Yanosky, David R Black, Natalie L Stickney
Journal of Mental Health 2012, 21 (3): 244-56

BACKGROUND: For many, seeking mental healthcare services remains a clandestine, shameful, or secret activity due in part, to the stigma associated with it.

AIM: This study examined the mental health stigma associated with mental illness within the USA as a product of differences in ethnicity, gender, perceptions of a just worldview, and individual controllability.

METHODS: A total of 466 participants completed a questionnaire measuring perceptions of social sensitivity, likelihood of engaging in helping behaviors, perceptions of danger, and global just worldviews.

RESULTS: Women were stigmatized less than men with mental illness (p = 0.0113), just worldview was not significantly correlated with the stigma, and controllability of mental health condition was positively associated with increased stigma (p < 0.0001). Finally, trends in individual perceptions of ethnicity suggest that both African Americans and Hispanics were less stigmatizing toward those with mental illness versus Asian Americans or Caucasians (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSION: Mental health stigma, while not associated with one's just worldview, remains relevant in examining, and ultimately changing the acceptance of receiving mental health services. Implications of the findings are discussed about increasing public mental health awareness and reducing mental health stigma as a function of gender, ethnic disparity, and shared life experiences.

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