The Stigmatization of Mental Illness: a Mixed Method Study
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Current research regarding the stigmatization of mental illnesses focuses mainly on quantitative data. There is insufficient data regarding the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of people with mood disorders. This thesis aims to understand the extent of stigmatization that people with mood disorders have experienced. A total of 212 participants with depression and bipolar disorder took part in this study. The Inventory of Stigmatizing Experiences (ISE), a 36-item questionnaire evaluated experiences with stigma. 16 open-ended questions emerged with responses suitable for coding. Responses were deconstructed sentence by sentence to identify themes. A total of 18 themes and 17 sub-themes emerged. When asked to elaborate on their experiences, responses rates were minimal, between 10-30%. Question 18 asked for an example of ‘stigma that had occurred in the past year’ and response rates averaged 40%, the most common theme was ‘stigmatizing experiences.’ This indicates that the stigma of mental illness is still prevalent. Question 27 asked ‘how do you cope with stigma,’ and response rates hovered around 55%. Coping techniques tended to be positive with themes such as ‘education,’ ‘humour,’ and ‘exercise.’ The data was re-arranged by gender, age, diagnosis, age of first symptoms and education to search for similarities and differences. When comparing genders, Question 18 resulted in women discussing the theme of positive experiences 19% compared to 31% of men. Non-parametric T-tests searched for statistically significant differences between groups. Significance was met in question 18, under the theme ‘positive experiences’ (p = .044) and ‘stigmatizing experiences’ (p = .001). In Question 22 when the data was rearranged by education, university learners reported the most stigmatization (51%), compared to college (38%), and high school (45%). When asked in Question 35, ‘what causes stigma,’ response rates averaged 70%. The theme of ‘ignorance’ was most common. This data could be useful to further anti-stigma campaigns by reminding people that mental illness affects diverse types of people. This study indicates that mental illness stigma is still a barrier that needs to be over come. By lowering the stigma associated with mental illness, we could expect higher treatment adherence and remission rates.
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