Little is known about the development of stigma towards people with mental disorders.
To investigate stigma in young Australians and the influence of exposure to mental disorders, parental attitudes and information campaigns.
A national telephone survey was carried out with 3746 people aged 12–25 years and 2005 co-resident parents. Stigmatising attitudes were assessed in relation to four vignettes (depression, depression with alcohol misuse, social phobia and psychosis).
Stigma was found to have multiple components labelled ‘social distance’, ‘dangerous/unpredictable’, ‘weak not sick’, ‘stigma perceived in others' and ‘reluctance to disclose’. Exposure to mental disorders and help-seeking in oneself or others was associated with lower scores on some components of stigma but not on others. Young people's attitudes showed specific associations with those of parents. Exposure to campaigns was associated with reductions in beliefs that the person is ‘weak not sick’.
Personal experiences, parental attitudes and campaigns all affect stigmatising attitudes.