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I worked in a clinic once where I SCANDALIZED the other therapists by allowing a CLENT to go into the STAFF kitchen. It exposed a deep, common rift in therapists thinking: there’s something wrong with them, but not with us.

Compare that to R.D. Laing’s therapeutic communities, big ramshackle houses full of people doing whatever they wanted, and where you could wonder for days if a particular person was “staff” or “patient.”

NPR ran an article today about recent research on stigma associated with mental illness. For example, 74% of the people surveyed said they would not want to work with someone with schizophrenia. This stigma, which extends into people’s willingness to get help for anxiety or depression, or just get help getting HAPPIER than they already are, or improving their relationships, and so on, is perhaps the biggest impediment to our reaching my goal, which is that EVERYONE WILL BE IN THERAPY of some kind or another.

Here’s the link:


And here’s an excerpt:

Knowledge is power. And some research has suggested that emphasizing the science behind mental illness — that it’s a brain disorder and not a defect in character — could be powerful enough to help shake the stigma of the condition.

But a study just published online by the American Journal of Psychiatry found that isn’t paying off all that well.

Researchers found that while more people understand mental illness is caused by brain biology, that hasn’t translated into a decrease in stigmatization.

Also, here’s the abstract of the recent study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.


“A Disease Like Any Other”? A Decade of Change in Public Reactions to Schizophrenia, Depression, and Alcohol Dependence
Bernice A. Pescosolido, Ph.D., Jack K. Martin, Ph.D., J. Scott Long, Ph.D., Tait R. Medina, M.A., Jo C. Phelan, Ph.D., and Bruce G. Link, Ph.D.

From the Schuessler Institute for Social Research and the Department of Sociology, Indiana University; and the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York.

Objective: Clinicians, advocates, and policy makers have presented mental illnesses as medical diseases in efforts to overcome low service use, poor adherence rates, and stigma. The authors examined the impact of this approach with a 10-year comparison of public endorsement of treatment and prejudice. Method: The authors analyzed responses to vignettes in the mental health modules of the 1996 and 2006 General Social Survey describing individuals meeting DSM-IV criteria for schizophrenia, major depression, and alcohol dependence to explore whether more of the public 1) embraces neurobiological understandings of mental illness; 2) endorses treatment from providers, including psychiatrists; and 3) reports community acceptance or rejection of people with these disorders. Multivariate analyses examined whether acceptance of neurobiological causes increased treatment support and lessened stigma. Results: In 2006, 67% of the public attributed major depression to neurobiological causes, compared with 54% in 1996. High proportions of respondents endorsed treatment, with general increases in the proportion endorsing treatment from doctors and specific increases in the proportions endorsing psychiatrists for treatment of alcohol dependence (from 61% in 1996 to 79% in 2006) and major depression (from 75% in 1996 to 85% in 2006). Social distance and perceived danger associated with people with these disorders did not decrease significantly. Holding a neurobiological conception of these disorders increased the likelihood of support for treatment but was generally unrelated to stigma. Where associated, the effect was to increase, not decrease, community rejection. Conclusions: More of the public embraces a neurobiological understanding of mental illness. This view translates into support for services but not into a decrease in stigma. Reconfiguring stigma reduction strategies may require providers and advocates to shift to an emphasis on competence and inclusion.

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