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Research on stigma often focuses on general public attitudes and overlooks patients' subjective experiences of everyday stigma arising from significant others.
To document and compare the interpersonal experiences of stigma in patients with schizophrenia and patients with diabetes mellitus in Hong Kong.
Four focus groups were conducted to generate a self-report questionnaire. Data were collected from out-patients with schizophrenia (n=320) and diabetes (n=160).
Significantly more patients with schizophrenia (>40%) than diabetes (average 15%) experienced stigma from family members, partners, friends and colleagues. Over 50% anticipated stigma and about 55% concealed their illness. Dysphoria occurred in over half.
Interpersonal (especially intrafamilial) stigma was pervasive, hard to avoid and devastating to patients with schizophrenia. Family support had to be realised rather than assumed, despite the emphasis on relationship bonds in Chinese society Programmes that build the family as a rehabilitative resource should start early to reduce the development and adverse impacts of stigma.
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