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October 2, 2012
Release No. 12-39

Researchers Examine Strategies to Reduce Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination


ARLINGTON, Va. (October 2, 2012) Stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness have
negative effects on the lives of people with serious mental illnesses. Research presented in the October
issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association, reviews a range of strategies
used to combat stigma, including education, contact with individuals with mental illness, and strategies to
improve skills for coping.
Researchers have described two types of stigmapublic stigma, or the prejudice and discrimination within
the general population; and self-stigma, or the harm that occurs when a person internalizes this prejudice
(also called internalized stigma, perceived stigma, or enacted stigma).
In one Psychiatric Services article, Patrick W. Corrigan, Psy.D. with the Illinois Institute of Technology, and
colleagues report on a meta-analysis of data from 72 outcome studies representing more than 38,000
research participants in 14 countries. They identified three basic types of approaches: education (providing
factual information and challenging inaccurate stereotypes), contact (with individuals with mental illness),
and protest (social activism on the injustice of stigma and discrimination).
Overall, strategies that include education about mental illness and contact with people who have mental
illness are effective in reducing stigma (attitudes and behavioral intentions). In-person contact has a
significantly greater effect than contact via video. Contact was more effective for adults, whereas
education worked best among adolescents. The authors theorized that this might be in part because
adolescents beliefs about mental illness are not as firmly developed as adults and adolescents therefore
are more likely to be responsive to education effects.
In the second article, Dinesh Mittal, M.D., with Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, and
coauthors report findings from a literature review of current research on self-stigma reduction. They
identified six different intervention strategies ranging from psycho-education alone to multimodal
intervention including cognitive restructuring. The definitions, conceptualizations, and measurements of
self -stigma varied greatly in the studies reviewed.
Two prominent approaches emerged. One approach involved interventions that attempted to alter the
individuals stigmatizing beliefs and attitudes (e.g., educating individuals about stigma and myths and
realities about mental illness). A second approach involved interventions that did not directly address
stigma but that sought to enhance skills for coping with self-stigma through improvements in self-esteem,
empowerment, and help seeking. The authors note that preliminary empirical evidence suggests that both
self-esteem and empowerment could be independently targeted to reduce self-stigma.
The American Psychiatric Association is a national medical specialty society whose physician members
specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use
disorders. Visit the APA at www.psychiatry.org.
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