How mental health literacy and experience of mental illness relate to stigmatizing attitudes and social distance towards people with depression or psychosis: A cross-sectional study

Bengt Svensson, Lars Hansson
Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 2016, 70 (4): 309-13
Background Evidence suggests that mental health literacy among the public is low, and stigmatizing attitudes are widespread. So far the effects of anti-stigma campaigns are small, and studies demonstrate that negative attitudes have been quite stable through recent decades. Aims To investigate the relationships between mental health literacy, experience of mental illness and stigmatizing attitudes/social distance towards people with depression or psychosis. Methods A cross-sectional study in which staff members from public services in Sweden (n = 1027) completed questionnaires covering demographic data, self-reported experience of mental illness, identification of a vignette for depression or psychosis, beliefs about helpful interventions for the illness presented in the vignette, and attitudes and social distance towards people with the illness. Results About 50% of participants could identify depression and less than 40% psychosis. A higher degree of mental health literacy was related to less stigma and social distance but mainly towards people with depression. A similar relationship was shown for having personal or family experience of mental illness and attitudes/social distance. Negative attitudes and social distance were significantly higher in all aspects measured towards a person with psychosis than a person with depression. Conclusions A higher degree of mental health literacy relates to more positive attitudes and less desire for social distance towards people with depression. The differences between depression and psychosis should be taken into account in anti-stigma interventions.

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