Abstract: Mood Disorder Public Stigma in U.S. Jewish Communities (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Mood Disorder Public Stigma in U.S. Jewish Communities

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Limor Smith, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, TX
Kathryne Brewer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham, Durham, NH
L. Christian Carr, PhD, Statistics Consultant, University of Houston, Houston, TX
David Roe, PhD, Professor, University of Haifa
Robin Gearing, PhD, Professor, University of Houston, TX
Purpose: Public stigma consists of damaging stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination toward individuals with mental illness. Studies of stigma toward different mental illnesses are limited for Jewish communities, reducing our understanding of whether symptomatology impacts stigmatization. This study examined how public stigma is shaped in U.S. Jewish communities by the symptomatology and gender of individuals with mood disorders and sociodemographic characteristics of their respondents.

Methods: Research employed an experimental survey design, a convenience sample of 243 Jewish individuals responded to an assessment of public stigma after reading one of six vignettes varied by gender and type of mood disorder (major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder presenting with either mania or depression). Sociodemographics of respondents, the Mental Illness Stigma Scale (Day et al., 2007), the Devaluation of Consumers Scale (Struening et al., 2001), and experimental vignettes were used to measure respondent characteristics, public stigma, perceived stigma, and questions about vignette persons, respectively.

Results: As multiple dependent variables were of interest, MANCOVA was employed. If MANCOVA was significant, univariate tests were used, followed by pairwise post-hoc comparisons. In U.S. Jewish communities, differences in stigma were based on both the characteristics of target individuals with mood disorders and respondents. Consistent with the Etiology and Effects of Stigma Model (Martin et al., 2007), results support that relative stigma exists among types of mood disorders. Stigma dimensions were associated with relative mood disorder symptomatology, including a) stigma toward lower recovery for bipolar disorder presenting with mania or depression as compared to major depressive disorder, b) stigma toward more relationship disruption for bipolar disorder presenting with mania as compared to major depressive disorder, and c) stigma toward worse hygiene for major depressive disorder as compared to bipolar disorder presenting with mania or depression. Ninety-six percent of respondents in this sample report familiarity with someone with mental health issues and approximately half of the respondents report that they have personally experienced a mental health problem. These levels of familiarity and personal experience are unique because they are 25-50% higher than those reported among other cultures. Respondents with personal experience perceive significantly more stigma toward mental illness in their communities. A significant interaction was found between respondent age and gender, with younger and middle-aged males reporting significantly weaker treatment efficacy beliefs. An unexpected finding for this Jewish sample illustrates that differences in mood disorder stigma are not found based on religious denomination or religious service attendance.

Limitations: The sample was primarily high SES, religiously affiliated, and had familiarity with people with mental health problems. Convenience sampling limits generalizability.

Conclusions: Strategies to engage members of Jewish communities in stigma reduction initiatives are discussed. Data suggested that interventions to increase treatment efficacy beliefs could be tailored for younger and middle-aged Jewish males. Social workers in practice can explore dimensions of stigma identified in this study with clients who have mood disorders. Future research could employ a qualitative methodology to address perceived and self-stigma among individuals currently experiencing or in recovery from mood disorders.