Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness

Many people with serious mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness. As a result of both, people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people. Although research has gone far to understand the impact of the disease, it has only recently begun to explain stigma in mental illness. Much work yet needs to be done to fully understand the breadth and scope of prejudice against people with mental illness. Fortunately, social psychologists and sociologists have been studying phenomena related to stigma in other minority groups for several decades. In this paper, we integrate research specific to mental illness stigma with the more general body of research on stereotypes and prejudice to provide a brief overview of issues in the area. more

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