Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16163 The Relationship Between the Public's Belief In the Potential of Recovery and Level of Mental Illness Stigma

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 3:30 PM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Amanda N. Barczyk, MSW, PhD, Social Scientist, University of Texas at Austin, Towson, MD
Background and Purpose: While one in four adults suffer with a mental health condition (MHC), approximately two thirds of individuals who have a diagnosable MHC do not seek treatment; stigma is a contributing factor. Research has shown that the desire to socially distance oneself from an individual with a MHC is lower among people who believe in the potential of recovering from a MHC. This belief in the potential of recovery is itself influenced by the previous contact a person has had with individuals who have MHCs. This presentation will examine the relationship between respondents' belief in the potential of recovery and their level of prejudicial attitudes and social distance (i.e., stigma). It will examine how this relationship varies by MHC (i.e., alcohol dependence, major depression, schizophrenia and a “troubled person” not meeting diagnostic criteria). Finally, it will test the extent to which previous contact with an individual who received mental health treatment impacted the aforementioned relationship.

Methods: A secondary data analysis of 1,437 adults who participated in the 2006 General Social Survey was conducted. Respondents had a mean age of 47, were predominately white (74.9%), female (56.1%) and employed full time (51.2%). Mental health topical module data was ascertained using vignettes depicting individuals with MHCs. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the relationships between respondents' belief in the potential of recovery of the person depicted in the vignette, latent variables measuring stigma (prejudicial attitudes and social distance), control variables (sex, race, education, income) and a potential mediator (previous contact). Multiple-group structural equation modeling was used to examine these relationships across the four MHCs depicted in the vignettes.

Results: After establishing good model fit for each model, results indicated that the belief in recovery led to lower levels of social distance (b =.13, p=< .01). In addition, prejudicial attitudes were predictive of the level of social distance (b =.41, p=< .001). These findings were significant for each group. Parameter invariance was found for all variables except income. Among respondents who received the “troubled person” vignette, those with lower income were more likely to have lower levels of prejudicial attitudes (b =.-12, p=.04). Among respondents who received the alcohol dependence vignette, those with lower income were more likely to have higher levels of prejudicial attitudes (b = -.26, p=< .01) and social distance (b = -.19, p=< .01). While previous contact was not a mediator, male (b =-.12, p=< .01), minority (b =.18, p=< .001) and less educated (b =-.13, p=< .001) respondents were less likely to have had previous contact with an individual who received mental health treatment.

Implications: Results indicate a need to place emphasis on the likelihood of recovering from a MHC when developing stigma reducing strategies. Findings highlighted the importance of using target-specific stigma reducing strategies that take into account individual differences (e.g., sex, race). Results also showed the need for educators, practitioners and policy makers to use language that promotes the idea of recovery and encourages people to see the person, not the illness.

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