The influence of mental illness and criminality self-stigmas and racial self-concept on outcomes in a forensic psychiatric sample

Michelle L West, Beth Vayshenker, Merrill Rotter, Philip T Yanos
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 2015, 38 (2): 150-7

OBJECTIVE: Research has increasingly explored mental illness self-stigma: when people with mental illness believe that society's negative beliefs are true of them. Self-stigma predicts poorer functional and treatment outcomes. Stigma research has typically investigated the impact of a single stigma on people, without considering the potential effects of multiple stigmatizing labels. People with mental illness and a history of criminal conviction, however, may experience multiple stigmas related to mental illness and criminal history. This study investigated the impact of the combination of multiple stigmatized identities on self-esteem, depression, therapeutic alliance, and treatment adherence in a forensic psychiatric sample. It extended previous research on mental illness self-stigma to a forensic psychiatric sample.

METHODS: Participants (N = 82) were people with mental illness and a history of criminal conviction recruited from their treatment sites. Participants completed self-report questionnaires focused on mental illness and criminality self-stigma, racial self- concept, self-esteem, depression, working alliance, and medication/psychosocial treatment adherence. Researchers confirmed demographics through a chart review and treatment adherence from participants' clinicians. Multiple regression analyses examined the relationship between self-stigma and outcome variables.

RESULTS: Mental illness self-stigma, racial self-concept, and to a lesser extent criminality self-stigma were associated with reduced self-esteem (p ≤ .05) and medication adherence (p ≤ .05). Criminality self-stigma also appeared to magnify the effects of racial and mental illness self-stigma on outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study shows that self-stigma related to involvement in the criminal justice system may further contribute to the impact of mental illness self-stigma on important outcomes. Future research and interventions may tailor self-stigma interventions to a forensic psychiatric population.

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