- Open Access
A Public Health Perspective on the Stigmatization of Mental Illnesses
Public Health Reviews volume 34, Article number: 12 (2012)
Mental illness stigma occurs when individuals are devalued or treated unfairly by others because of their mental health condition. The stigmatization of people with mental illnesses has been recognized by international agencies such as the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association as an important public health and human rights problem. This paper reviews the origins of mental illness stigma and examines population-based research that describes public perceptions of people with a mental illness; experiences of stigma by people who have a mental illness; and mental health literacy. It shows that, in spite of increasing public knowledge about mental illnesses, their causes, and their treatments, people who have a mental illness and their family members continue to be stigmatized in ways that limit their civic participation and human rights. The paper closes with recommendations for evidence-based anti-stigma programming that is focused on the needs and priorities of people who have experienced a mental illness, argues for more comprehensive epidemiologic data describing the frequency and personal impact of stigma experiences and recommends that public health agencies view stigma reduction as part of their global mental health mandate.
Sartorius N. Fighting for Mental Health: A Personal View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2002.
Link BG, Phelan JC. Conceptualizing stigma. Annu Rev Sociol. 2001;27:363–85.
World Health Organizaton. The ‘undefined and hidden’ burden of mental health problems. Fact Sheet No. 218. WHO; 2001. Available from URL: https://apps.who.int/inf-fs/en/fact218.html (Accessed 31 August 2012).
Murray CJL, Lopez AD. The Global Burden of Disease. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1996.
United Nations General Assembly. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Geneva: UN; 2006.
Angermeyer MC, Schulze B, Dietrich S. Couresy Stigma—a focus group study of relatives of schizophrenia patients. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2003;38:593–602.
World Health Organization. Stop exclusion: dare to care. Geneva: WHO; 2001.
Stuart H, Arboleda-Flórez J, Sartorius N. Paradigms Lost. Fighting Stigma and the Lessons Learned Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012.
Shilkret R. Moral treatment. In: Weiner IB, Craighead WE, (editors). Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. Published Online 30 January 2010. Available from URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.proxy.queensu.ca
Kramer ME. The history of the international classification of diseases. In: Mezzich JE, Jorge MR, Salloum IM, (editors). Psychiatric Epidemiology: Assessment Concepts and Methods. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1994. p.81–97.
Dohrenwend BP, Dohrenwend BS. Perspectives on the past and future of psychiatric epidemiology. The 1981 Rema Lapouse Lecture. Am J Public Health. 1982;72:1271–9.
Murphy JM. The Stirling County study. In: Weissman MM, Kyers JK, Ross CE, (editors). Community Surveys of Psychiatric Disorders. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 1986. p.133–53.
Srole L, Fischer AK. The Midtown Manhatan longitudinal study: aging, generations, and genders. In: Weissman MM, Myers JK, Ross CE, (editors). Community Surveys of Psychiatric Disorders. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 1986. p.77–108.
Kohn R, Saxena S, Levav I, Saraceno B. The treatment gap in mental health care. Bull World Health Organ. 2004;82:858–66.
The WHO World Mental Health Survey Consortium. Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. JAMA. 2004;291:2581–90.
Corrigan PW. How clinical diagnosis might exacerbate the stigma of mental illness. Soc Work. 2007;52:31–9.
Angermeyer MC, Deitrich S. Public beliefs about and attitudes towards people with mental illness: a review of population studies. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006;113:163–79.
Pescosolido B, Olafsdottir S, Martin J, Long J. Cross-cultural aspects of the stigma of mental illness. In: Arboleda-Flórez J, Sartorius N, (editors). Understanding the Stigma of Mental Illness. Theory and Interventions. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons; 2008. p.19–35.
Pescosolido B, Monahan J, Link B, Stueve A, Kikuzawa S. The public’s view of the competence, dangerousness, and need for legal coercion of persons with mental health problems. Am J Public Health. 1999;89:1339–45.
Phelan JC, Link BG, Stueve A, Pescosolido BA. Public conceptions of mental illness in 1950 and 1996: what is mental illness and is it to be feared? J Health Soc Behav. 2000;41:188–207.
Goffman E. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall; 1963.
Hindshaw SP. The stigmatization of mental illness in children and parents: developmental issues, family concerns, and research needs. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005;46:714–34.
Larson JE, Corrigan P. The stigma of families with mental illness. Acad Psychiatry. 2008;32:87–91.
Corrigan PW, Watson AC, Miller FE. Blame, shame, and contamination: the impact of mental illness and drug dependence stigma on family members. J Fam Psychol. 2006;20:239–46.
Wahl OF. Telling is Risky Business. Mental Health Consumers Confront Stigma New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 1999.
Thornicroft G, Brohan E, Rose D, Sartorius N, Leese M, INDIGO Study Group. Global pattern of experienced and anticipated discrimination against people with schizophrenia: a cross sectional survey. Lancet. 2009;373:408–15.
Brohan E, Elgie R, Sartorius N, Thornicroft G, GAMIAN-Europe Study Group. Self-stigma, empowerment and perceived discrimination among people with schizophrenia in 14 European countries: the GAMIAN-Europe study. Schizophr Res. 2010;122:232–8.
Jorm AF. Mental health literacy. Public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. Br J Psychiatry. 2000;177:396–401.
Sartorius N, Gaebel W, Cleveland HR, Stuart H, Akiyama T, Arboleda-Flórez J, et al. WPA guidance on how to combat stigmatization of psychiatry and psychiatrists. World Psychiatry. 2010;9:131–44.
Read J, Haslam R, Sayce L, Davies E. Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2006;114:303–18.
Angermeyer MC, Holzinger A, Matschinger H. Mental health literacy and attitude towards people with mental illness: a trend analysis based on population surveys in the eastern part of Germany. Eur Psychiatry. 2009;24:225–32.
Angermeyer MC, Matschinger H. Public attitudes to people with depression: have there been any changes over the last decade? J Affect Disord. 2004;83:177–82.
Pescosolido BA, Martin JK, Long JS, Medina TR, Phelan JC, Link BG. “A disease like any other?” A decade of change in public reactions to schizophrenia, depression, and alcohol dependence. Am J Psychiatry. 2010;167:1321–30.
Jorm AF, Medway J, Christensen H, Korten AE, Jacomb PA, Rodgers B. Public beliefs about the helpfulness of interventions for depression: effects on actions taken when experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2000;34:619–26.
Callard F, Sartorius N, Arboleda-Flórez J, Bartlett P, Helmchen H, Stuart H, et al. Mental Illness, Discrimination and the Law. Fighting for Social Justice. Chinchester: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
About this article
Cite this article
Stuart, H., Arboleda-Flórez, J. A Public Health Perspective on the Stigmatization of Mental Illnesses. Public Health Rev 34, 12 (2012) doi:10.1007/BF03391680
- mental illness stigma
- mental health stigma