Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 31903
Mental Illness Stigma and Causal Beliefs: Among Potential Mental Health Professionals

Authors: Josephine S. Larkings, Patricia M. Brown


Mental health professionals views about mental illness is an important issue which has not received enough attention. The negative stigma associated with mental illness can have many negative consequences. Unfortunately, health professionals working with the mentally ill can also exhibit stigma. It has been suggested that causal explanations or beliefs around the causes of mental illness may influence stigma. This study aims to gain a greater insight into stigma through examining stigma among potential mental health professionals. Firstly, results found that potential mental health professionals had relatively low social distance t(205) = -3.62, p <.001. Secondly, an ANOVA indicated that the participants endorsed some causal beliefs more than others, F(1.82, 311.55) = 88.47, p < .001, partial n2 = .34. Moreover, participants endorsed the biological causal explanation the most. Thirdly, results indicated that combined contact (quality and quantity) and causal beliefs (biological, psychological, and environmental) explained a significant proportion of the variance in stigma, R2 = .35, adjusted R2 = .33, F(5, 153) = 16.66, p < .001. Quality of contact was the strongest predictor, with greater quality of contact associated with lower desired social distance. Also, quantity of contact, psychological and environmental causal explanations were also significant predictors of stigma. Greater quantity of contact and higher levels of environmental causal beliefs were associated with lower levels of stigma while psychological causal explanations were associated with higher levels of stigma. A series of multiple regression analyses were conducted that showed the three causal beliefs had different impacts on four factors of stigma (Authoritarian, Benevolence, Social restrictiveness, and Community mental health ideology). These analyses showed that psychological causal beliefs had the most positive impact. More research is required on this topic as it has important implications to the treatment and recovery for people suffering from mental illness.

Keywords: Causal beliefs, contact, health professionals, mental illness stigma, social distance.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 1827


[1] World Health Organization "Prevention of mental disorders. Effective interventions and policy options: Summary Report" Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, 2004.
[2] D. B. Feldman, and C. S. Crandall, "Dimensions of mental illness stigma: What about mental illness causes social rejection?" J Soc Clin Psychol, vol. 26, pp. 137-154, Feb. 2007.
[3] R. O. Beltran, J. N. Scanlan, N. Hancock, and T. Luckett, "The effect of first year mental health fieldwork on attitudes of occupational therapy students towards people with mental illness," Aust Occupational Therapy J, vol. 54, pp. 42-48, March 2007.
[4] S. L. Overton, and S. L. Medina, "The stigma of mental illness," J Couns Dev, vol. 86, pp. 143-151, Spring 2008.
[5] B. Schulze, "Stigma and mental health professionals: A review of the evidence on an intricate relationship" Int Rev Psychiatr, vol. 19, pp. 137-155, Jan. 2007.
[6] O. Wahl, and E. Aroesty-Cohen, "Attitudes of mental health professionals about mental illness: A review of the recent literature," J Commun Psychol, vol. 38, pp. 49-62, Jan. 2010.
[7] D. Kingdon, T. Sharma, and D. Hart, "What attitudes do psychiatrists hold towards people with mental illness?" Psychiat Bull, vol. 28, pp. 401-406, Nov. 2004.
[8] L. Magliano, A. Fiorillo, C. De Rosa, C. Malangone, and M. Maj, "Beliefs about schizophrenia in Italy: A comparative nationwide survey of the general public, mental health professionals, and patients- relatives," Can J Psychiatry, vol. 49, pp. 322-330, May, 2004.
[9] C. Nordt, W. Rössler, and C. Lauber, "Attitudes of mental health professionals towards people with schizophrenia and major depression," Schizophrenia Bull, vol. 32, pp. 709-714, March 2006.
[10] M. Hugo, "Mental health professionals- attitudes towards people who have experienced a mental health disorder," J Psychiat Ment Heal Nur, vol. 8, pp. 419-425, May 2001.
[11] A. F. Jorm, A. E. Korten, P. A. Jacomb, H. Christensen, and S. Henderson, "Attitudes towards people with a mental disorder: A survey of the Australian public and health professionals," Aust NZ J Psychiat, vol. 33, pp. 77-83, Feb. 1999.
[12] C. Lauber, C. Nordt, C. Braunschweig, and W. Rössler, "Do mental health professionals stigmatize their patients?" Acta Psychiatr Scand, vol. 113, pp. 51-59, Feb. 2006.
[13] Y. Amir, "Contact hypothesis in ethnic relations," Psychol Bull, vol. 71, pp. 319-342, May 1969.
[14] G. W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1954.
[15] R. R. Reinke, P. W. Corrigan, C. Leonhard, R. K. Lundin, M. A. Kubiak, "Examining two aspects of contact on the stigma of mental illness," J Soc Clin Psychol, vol. 23, pp. 377-389, June 2004.
[16] D. C. K. Lam, P. M. Salkovskis, and H. M. C. Warwick, "An experimental investigation of the impact of biological versus psychological explanations of the cause of "mental illness"," J Ment Health, vol. 14, pp. 453-464, July 2005.
[17] J. A. Nieuwsma, and C. M. Pepper, "How etiological explanations for depression impact perceptions of stigma, treatment effectiveness, and controllability of depression," J Ment Health, vol. 19, pp. 52-61, Feb. 2010.
[18] B. Goldstein, and F. Rosselli, "Etiological paradigms of depression: The relationship between perceived causes, empowerment, treatment preferences, and stigma," J Ment Health, vol. 12, pp. 551-563, Dec. 2003.
[19] B. J. Deacon, and G. L. Baird, "The chemical imbalance explanation of depression: Reducing blame at what cost?" J Soc Clin Psychol, vol. 28, pp. 415-435, Apr. 2009.
[20] J. Read, "Why promoting biological ideology increases prejudice against people labelled "schizophrenic"," Aust Psychol, vol. 42, pp. 118-128, June 2007.
[21] J. C. Phelan, L. H. Yang, and R. Cruz-Rojas, "Effects of attributing serious mental illnesses to genetic causes on orientations to treatment," J Psychiatr Ment Hlt, vol. 57, pp. 382-387, 2006.
[22] M. C. Angermeyer, "Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of mental illness: systematic review of population studies," Brit J Psychiatry, vol. 199, pp. 367-372 , 2005.
[23] H. Kent, and J. Read, "Measuring consumer participation in mental health services: Are attitudes related to professional orientation?" Int J Soc Psychiatr, vol. 44, pp. 295-310, Winter 2008.
[24] J. Read, and A. Law, "The relationship of causal beliefs and contact with users of mental health services to attitudes to the ÔÇÿmentally ill-" Int J Soc Psychiarty, vol. 45, pp. 216-229, 1999.
[25] P. Allen, and K. Bennett, SPSS for the health and begavioural sciences. Melbourne AUS: Thomson, 2008.
[26] M. Taylor, and M. J. Dear, "Scaling community attitudes toward the mentally ill," Schizophr Bull, vol. 7, pp. 225-240, 1961.
[27] D. M. Desforges, C. G. Lord, S. L. Ramsey, J. A. Mason, M. D. van Leeuwen, S. C. West, et al., "Effects of structured cooperative contact on changing negative attitudes toward stigmatized social groups," J Pers Soc Psychol, vol. 60, pp. 531-544, Apr. 1991.
[28] P. W. Corrigan, and D. L. Penn, "Lessons from social psychology on discrediting psychiatric stigma," Am Psychol, vol. 54, pp. 765-776, Sep. 1999.
[29] M. Manetti, B. H. Schneider, and G. Siperstein, "Social acceptance of children with mental retardation: Testing the contact hypothesis with an Italian sample ". Int J Beh Dev, vol. 25, pp. 279-286, May 2001.
[30] B. G. Link, L. H. Yang, J. C. Phelan, and P. Y. Collins, "Measuring mental illness stigma," Schizophrenia Bull, vol. 30, pp. 511-541, 2004.
[31] S. Mehta, and A. Farina, "Is being "sick" really better? Effect of the disease view of mental disorder on stigma," J Soc Clin Psychol, 16, pp. 405-419, 1997.
[32] M. R. Islam, and M. Hewstone, "Dimensions of contact as predictors of intergroup anxiety, perceived out-group variability, and out-group attitude: An integrative model," Pers Soc Psychol Rev, vol. 19, pp. 700- 710, Dec. 1993.