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Reducing Stigma toward the Mentally Ill:: 

Reducing Stigma toward the Mentally Ill: The Impact of Exposure versus Information Stephanie Turner Hanover College


Stigma Goffman (1963) defines stigma as an attribute of an individual that “makes him different from others…and of a less desirable kind-in the extreme, a person who is quite thoroughly bad, or dangerous, or weak”.


Definitions Stigma: more specific, negative form of attitudes; directed toward specific group Exposure: any association or connection with mentally ill which involves seeing them as full human beings, capable of humor, warmth, intelligence, etc. and deserving of empathy Empathy: “vicarious emotional experience of others” (Mehrabian, 1972)

Tested Interventions to Reduce Stigma: 

Tested Interventions to Reduce Stigma Angermeyer (1996) and Dietrich (2006) discuss how close contact with the mentally ill impacts and shapes attitudes Addison and Thorpe (2004) Found that factual knowledge alone did not positively alter attitudes Used Community Attitudes Toward the Mentally Ill Scale (CAMI)

Pre- / Post-Intervention Design: 

Pre- / Post-Intervention Design Demographics 2 surveys pre-intervention Empathy scale, CAMI Participant sees one of two videos Information: “Professional Lecture” Exposure: “Robert Documentary” Post-intervention surveys Empathy scale, CAMI


Hypotheses Hypothesis 1: Participants in the Exposure Condition (“Robert Documentary”) will show a decrease in stigmatizing attitudes compared to participants in the Information Condition (“Professional Lecture”). Hypothesis 2: Participants in the Exposure Condition will show an increase in empathy as compared to the participants in the Information Condition.


Participants Students (N = 25) n = 22 female; n = 3 male Wide range of previous experience with mental illness, including acquaintance, friend, family member, and self Majority (76%) reported some previous experience or contact with mentally ill persons

Materials: CAMI: 

Materials: CAMI Community Attitudes Toward the Mentally Ill (CAMI) (Taylor & Dear, 1981) Four dimensions of attitudes: 5 point Likert Scale Benevolence “We need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude toward the mentally ill in our society” Authoritarianism “The best way to handle the mentally ill is to keep them behind locked doors” Social Restrictiveness “The mentally ill should not be given any responsibility” Community Mental Health Ideology “The best therapy for many mental patients is to be a part of a normal community”

Materials: Revised Empathy Scale: 

Materials: Revised Empathy Scale Based on the Emotional Empathetic Tendency Scale (EET) (Mehrabian, 1971) Specified empathy toward mentally ill people 16 items total 5 point Likert Scale 8 concepts- 2 question each

Empathy Scale Sample Questions: 

Empathy Scale Sample Questions Concept: Sympathy for the mentally ill Negative: “People make too much of the feelings and sensitivity of the mentally ill.” Positive: “The mentally ill deserve our sympathy.”

Materials: Professional Lecture: 

Materials: Professional Lecture Video created for this study Licensed Clinical Psychologist and director of a college counseling center Discusses three mental disorders: Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, and Schizoaffective disorder Formal lecture style, no empathic or humanizing information present

Materials: Robert Documentary: 

Materials: Robert Documentary Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival (Hott, 2004) Film by two brothers Robert, who has suffered with mental illness Jay, primary caretaker over the last 38 years Shows how family copes with mental illness Realistic, humanizing portrayal of Robert

Results: CAMI: 

Results: CAMI Mixed Model ANOVA CAMI- significant interaction (p = 0.005) Follow up analysis for simple main effects of time also significant (p < 0.05) Benevolence subscale- significant interaction (p < 0.05) Follow up analysis for simple main effects of time also significant (p < 0.05) Other subscales showed no significant differences

Pre-/Post- CAMI Changes: 

Pre-/Post- CAMI Changes CAMI Score Significant interaction (p = 0.005)

Pre-/Post- Benevolence Changes: 

Pre-/Post- Benevolence Changes Benevolence Score Significant interaction (p < 0.05)

Discussion of CAMI: 

Discussion of CAMI Hypothesis 1 confirmed: Participants showed more benevolent, and thus less stigmatizing attitudes after Exposure intervention CAMI and Benevolence differences might be even greater with a neutral or more stigmatizing sample.

Results: Empathy Scale: 

Results: Empathy Scale Reliability was achieved: Empathy Scale revised to specify the Mentally Ill was found to be reliable (α = 0.71) Hypothesis 2 not supported: No significant main effects or interaction found

Previous Contact of Participants: 

Previous Contact of Participants

Empathy Discussion: 

Empathy Discussion Participants displayed high levels of empathy pre-intervention. Mean: 61.4 Range: 49-70 High empathy levels may have restricted the amount of change that could be evoked by intervention.

Implications and Future Research: 

Target sample low in empathy and high in stigmatizing attitudes toward mentally ill Further research is needed to Test intervention with more participants Explore the role benevolence plays in reducing stigmatizing attitudes and how it is related to empathy Implications and Future Research

Pre-/Post- Empathy Changes: 

Pre-/Post- Empathy Changes No significant Interaction p = 0.737 Empathy Score

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