JOURNAL ARTICLE

How does stigma affect work in people with serious mental illnesses?

Patrick W Corrigan, Karina J Powell, Nicolas Rüsch
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 2012, 35 (5): 381-4
23116379

OBJECTIVES: How does stigma influence whether people with serious mental illness work? We examine the relationship of public stigma (the effects that occur when people with mental illness endorse the common prejudice of mental illness) and self-stigma (the results of people with psychiatric disorders internalizing prejudice) on current and lifetime histories of work.

METHODS: Eighty-five persons with serious mental illness reported current work history (i.e., in the past 3 months and in the past year) and lifetime work history (i.e., "have you ever worked?"). They also completed measures of self- and public stigma, focusing on the stereotypes of responsibility and dangerousness.

RESULTS: Endorsement of public stigma was shown to be significantly associated with lifetime history of work and self-stigma with current history. The dangerousness cluster of public stigma was specifically associated with lifetime work. We also tested a hierarchical model of self-stigma: that people need to first be aware of the prejudice, then agree to it, next apply it to themselves, and finally experience some harm to self-esteem. Only the latter stages of self-stigma-apply and harm-were correlated with current work.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Implications of these findings for meaningfully impacting stigma change are considered. In particular, we discuss ways to change public and self-stigma in order to enhance work.

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