The relationship between the public’s belief in the potential of recovery and level of mental illness stigma
Barczyk, Amanda Nicole
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Mental health conditions are highly prevalent in the U.S. Approximately two thirds of individuals who have a diagnosable mental health condition do not seek treatment; stigma is a major contributing factor. Stigma can lead to a fear of pursuing one’s goals, loss of self-esteem and a hesitancy to engage in society. This dissertation was a secondary data analysis of 1,437 adults who participated in the 2006 General Social Survey topical modules utilizing vignettes to examine mental health issues. Multiple-group structural equation modeling examined the relationship between respondents’ level of prejudicial attitudes and social distance (i.e., stigma) toward individuals who have a mental health condition and their belief in the potential of recovery. This relationship was examined for mental health conditions in general and across four groups (i.e., alcohol dependence, major depression, schizophrenia and troubled person). The relationship was further explored by testing if previous contact with an individual who has received treatment was a mediator. Findings indicate that the belief in recovery leads to lower levels of social distance. This finding was true for each group. In addition, prejudicial attitudes were found to be a predictor of one’s level of social distance for each group. Parameter invariance was found for all variables except income. In the group of respondents given the vignette depicting a troubled person, those with a lower income were more likely to have lower levels of prejudicial attitudes. In the group of respondents given the vignette depicting an individual with alcohol dependence, those with lower income were more likely to have higher levels of prejudicial attitudes and social distance. While the variable previous contact was not a mediator, it was found that males, respondents of minority background and those with less education were less likely to have had previous contact with an individual who has received mental health treatment. Results from this dissertation indicate a need to place emphasis on the probability of recovering from a mental health condition when developing stigma reducing strategies. Results also highlight the need to focus on the recovery and empowerment of individuals with mental health conditions in education, practice and policy.