Comparing Perceived Public Stigma and Personal Stigma of Mental Health Treatment Seeking in a Young Adult Sample

Published in: Psychiatry Research, v. 219, no. 1, Sep. 2014, p. 143-150

Posted on RAND.org on June 18, 2014

by Eric R. Pedersen, Andrew P. Paves

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Perceived public stigma regarding seeking mental health treatment can be a barrier to accessing services for young adults. While factors associating with personal stigma regarding how one would view and treat others have been identified, the discrepancies between perceived and personal stigma have received less research attention. We designed the current study to expand on previous research and examine the discrepancies between perceived public stigma and personal stigma among a sample of 386 primarily White and Asian college students. Participants completed surveys of mental health symptoms, treatment experience and attitudes, perceived public, and personal stigma. Overall, participants generally reported greater perceived public stigma than personal stigma; an effect that was particularly evident for women and those with mental health symptoms. The majority of participants disagreed with items assessing personal stigma. Negative attitudes toward treatment and anxiety symptoms associated with perceived public stigma, while male gender, Asian ethnicity, and negative attitudes toward treatment associated with personal stigma. Findings have implications for interventions and marketing programs to help change perceptions about mental health stigma to encourage utilization of services for those young people who could benefit from care.

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