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Stigma and its impact on help-seeking for mental disorders: what do we know?

  • Georg Schomerus (a1) and Matthias C. Angermeyer (a1)

Summary

Aims – Many people suffering from serious mental illness do not seek appropriate medical help. The stigma of mental illness has often been considered a potential cause for reluctance in seeking help. We review recent evidence on this topic. Methods – Narrative review of the recent literature on stigma and helpseeking for psychiatric disorders. Results – There is proof of a particular stigma attached to seeking help for a mental problem. Anticipated individual discrimination and discrimination qua self-stigmatisation are associated with a reduced readiness to seek professional help for mental disorders. Intervention studies show that destigmatisation may lead to increased readiness to seek professional help, but other aspects like knowledge about mental diseases seem to be at least as important. The belief that seeking help for a mental health problem is actually helpful has been shown to be at the core of help-seeking intentions and thus offers a promising target for information programmes. Population based time-trend studies show that public attitudes towards help-seeking have improved over the last decade. Discussion – The relationship between help-seeking intentions and actual help-seeking needs further exploration. While many studies have been able to relate attitudes to intentions, predicting actual help-seeking has proved more difficult.

Declaration of Interest: None.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr. G. Schomerus, Department of Psychiatry, Leipzig University, Johannisallee 20, 04317 Leipzig (Germany). Fax: +49-341-972.4539 E-mail: Georg.Schomerus@medizin.uni-Ieipzig.de

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