Stereotype awareness, self-esteem and psychopathology in people with psychosis

Catherine van Zelst, Martine van Nierop, Margreet Oorschot, Inez Myin-Germeys, Jim van Os, Philippe Delespaul
PloS One 2014, 9 (2): e88586

INTRODUCTION: Stigma is an important environmental risk factor for a variety of outcomes in schizophrenia. In order to understand and remediate its effects, research is required to assess how stigma experiences are processed at the level of the individual. To this end, stereotype awareness (SA) with respect to people with mental illness and their families was explored in persons with psychotic disorder.

METHOD: Data from the Dutch Genetic Risk and OUtcome of Psychosis project (GROUP) were analyzed. SA was measured using scales that assess a respondent's perception of common opinions about people with a mental illness and their families.

RESULTS: People with higher level of self-esteem were less aware of stereotypes about patients and families. People with more severe psychopathology reported more awareness of stereotypes about families, not about patients.

CONCLUSION: Enhancing psychological resources, by increasing self-esteem and the ability to cope with symptoms, can be targeted to diminish stereotype threat and improve stigma resilience. Interventions can be tailored to individual differences to increase their impact. Furthermore, in order to diminish detrimental consequences of negative stereotypes, mental health professionals, health educators and experts by experience can inform the public about mental illness and stigma.

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