Mental Illness Stigma Hard to Shake, Survey
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The level of Americans'
prejudice and discrimination toward people with serious mental
illness or substance abuse problems didn't change over 10 years, a
new study has found.
The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of
campaigns to educate people about mental illness and suggest that
new approaches may be needed, said the researchers at Indiana
University and Columbia University.
"Prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. aren't moving. In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. It's time to stand back and rethink our approach," Indiana University sociologist Bernice Pescosolido said in a university news release.
She and her colleagues compared the attitudes of people in 1996
and 2006. During this period, there was a major push to make
Americans more aware of the genetic and medical explanations for
conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and substance
About 1,956 adults who took part in the 1996 and 2006 General
Social Survey listened to a short piece featuring a person who had
major depression, schizophrenia or alcohol dependency, and then
answered a series of questions.
Among the key findings:
- The number of participants who attributed major depression to
neurobiological causes was 54 percent in 1996 and 67 percent in
- There was an increase in the proportion of participants who
supported treatment from a doctor, and more specifically from a
psychiatrist, for treatment of alcohol dependence (from 61 percent
in 1996 to 79 percent in 2006) and major depression (from 75
percent in 1996 to 85 percent in 2006).
- People who believed that mental illness and substance abuse had
neurobiological causes were more likely to be in favor of providing
treatment. But these people were no less likely to stigmatize
patients with mental illness or substance abuse problems.
The study findings were published online Sept. 15 in the
American Journal of Psychiatry.
Efforts to reduce stigma should focus on the person rather than
the disease, and emphasize the abilities of people with mental
health problems, Pescosolido suggested. "We need to involve groups
in each community to talk about these issues, which affect nearly
every family in America in some way. This is in everyone's
interest," she added.
The American Psychiatric Association has more about
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