The stigma of psychiatric treatment and help-seeking intentions for depression

Department of Psychiatry, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany.
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.53). 03/2009; 259(5):298-306. DOI: 10.1007/s00406-009-0870-y
Source: PubMed


The stigma of mental illness has often been considered a potential cause for reluctant willingness to seek help for mental problems, but there is little evidence on this issue. We examine two aspects of stigma related to seeing a psychiatrist and their association with help-seeking intentions for depression: anticipated discrimination by others when seeking help and desire for social distance from those seeking help.
Representative population survey in Germany 2007 (n = 2,303), containing a depression vignette with a question on readiness to seek psychiatric care for this problem, a focus group developed scale anticipated discrimination when seeing a psychiatrist (ADSP), and a scale on desire for social distance from someone seeing a psychiatrist (SDSP). We further elicited previous contact to psychiatric treatment, depressive symptoms, and socio-demographic data.
Both scales had good internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha ADSP 0.87, SDSP 0.81). Exploratory factor analysis of all items revealed a distinct factor representing the social distance scale and three factors "anticipated discrimination", "anticipated job problems" and "anticipated shame" derived from the ADSP scale. In both the general population and in those with current depressive syndrome, personal desire for social distance significantly decreased willingness to seek psychiatric help, but anticipated discrimination by others did not. Other factors related to likely help-seeking were female gender and previous contact to psychiatric treatment or to psychotherapy.
Contrary to expectations, anticipated discrimination from others was unrelated to help-seeking intentions, while personal discriminatory attitudes seem to hinder help-seeking. Our findings point to self-stigmatization as an important mechanism decreasing the willingness to seek psychiatric help.

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Available from: Georg Schomerus, Aug 28, 2015
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    • "Misunderstanding and misconception of mental health professions result in negative stereotypes and prejudice. A major problem is stigmatic attitudes toward mental health care, especially psychiatric care (Sartorius et al., 2010; Schomerus, Matschinger, & Angermeyer, 2009; Schultze, 2007; von Sydow & Reimer, 1998). Mental illness is perceived negatively in society (Guimon, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to explore predictors of help-seeking intentions for mental health problems. This study examined warmth and competence stereotypes about mental health care providers, in relation to help-seeking intentions. A total of 338 adults participated in the study. They were asked to rate their stereotypes about psychologists, psychiatrists, family doctors, clergypersons, and astrologers, and intentions to seek help for mental health problems on a number of Likert-type scales. The results showed that the stereotypes about helping professionals in the mental health care field were significant predictors of intentions to seek help. Higher perceptions about the competence of a family doctor, psychologist, clergyman and astrologer and higher perceptions about warmth of a psychiatrist indicated potential clients’ willingness to seek their help. Differences in predictors of the help-seeking intentions between different mental health care provider professions revealed a complex network of beliefs based on professional stereotypes about mental health care providers. © 2015, Mediterranean Center of Social and Educational Research. All rights reserved.
    Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 05/2015; 6(3). DOI:10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n3s2p50
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    • "Also skepticism towards psychiatry as a legitimate science and towards those representing it as well negative stereotypes about psychiatrists may have played a role (Swami and Furnham 2011; Sartorius et al. 2010). Last but not least, an important obstacle against recommending a psychiatrist seems to be the fear of negative social consequences of being in psychiatric treatment (Schomerus et al. 2009). Despite the fact that in Italy patients must first see the G.P. before consulting a psychologist, the first has less frequently been recommended than the latter, which may be seen as a sign of a certain reservation about G.P.s, who in a nationwide survey in Italy had been found capable to understand and help patients with depression by only half of respondents. "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose of the study is to investigate helpseeking preferences of the Sardinian public in case of depression. A telephone survey was conducted among the adult population, using quota sampling (N = 1,200). Respondents were presented with a vignette depicting a person with symptoms of major depressive disorder, followed by a fully structured interview. Psychologists were most frequently selected as source of professional help, followed by psychiatrists and G.P.s. Residents of small towns more frequently recommended mental health professionals than city residents. Public help-seeking preferences reflect the availability of services, beliefs about the appropriate treatment of depression and attitudes towards those providing it.
    Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research 10/2014; 42(6). DOI:10.1007/s10488-014-0604-y · 3.44 Impact Factor
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    • "In line with Schomerus et al. (2009), we found that self-stigma was more closely correlated with decreased willingness for disclosure. This finding supports previous "

    10/2014; 11(1):1-18. DOI:10.5130/portal.v11i1.3295
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