Empirical Studies of Self-Stigma Reduction Strategies: A Critical Review of the Literature

Dinesh Mittal, Greer Sullivan, Lakshminarayana Chekuri, Elise Allee, Patrick W Corrigan
Psychiatric Services: a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 2012, 63 (10): 974-81

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article was to comprehensively review published literature about strategies to reduce self-stigma among people with mental illness. Recommendations and implications for research also are discussed.

METHODS: The electronic databases of Ovid, PubMed, and PsycINFO were searched for peer-reviewed articles published between January 2000 and August 2011 by using the key words “self-stigma,” “internalized stigma,” “perceived stigma,” and “stigma intervention.” The search was further narrowed to studies that described a detailed intervention and that used self-stigma as a primary or secondary outcome, tested the intervention among individuals with a psychiatric illness, and analyzed data quantitatively with acceptable statistical tools.

RESULTS: Fourteen articles met inclusion criteria, and eight reported significant improvement in self-stigma outcomes. Participants predominantly had schizophrenia and related disorders or depression. Six self-stigma reduction strategies were identified. Psychoeducation was the most frequently tested intervention. Self-stigma definitions, measurements, and conceptual frameworks varied considerably across these studies. Several studies lacked a theoretical framework for their intervention. Six different scales were used to measure self-stigma.

CONCLUSIONS: Two prominent approaches for self-stigma reduction emerged from our review: one, interventions that attempt to alter the stigmatizing beliefs and attitudes of the individual; and two, interventions that enhance skills for coping with self-stigma through improvements in self-esteem, empowerment, and help-seeking behavior. The second approach seems to have gained traction among stigma experts. Targeting high-risk groups to preempt self-stigma appears to be a promising area for future research.

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