Self-Stigma, Perceived Stigma, and Help-Seeking Communication in People with Mental Illness

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Jen Lee Teh
David King
Bernadette Watson
Shuang Liu


People with mental illness (PWMI) often internalise negative beliefs (self-stigma) or anticipate external sources of stigma (perceived stigma). This study examines how the two types of stigma affect the willingness to communicate for help – such communication is a vital aspect of good patient care and treatment outcome. Seventy-two participants from different ethnic backgrounds who had experienced mental illness responded to an online survey about their level of agreement with statements reflecting self- and perceived stigma and their willingness to disclose to various help sources. Face-to-face interviews with 17 of these respondents provided a deeper understanding of how stigma affected their help-seeking communication. The quantitative results seemed to suggest that self-stigma has a stronger negative correlation with willingness to seek help. Respondents preferred disclosing to friends above family members and health professionals. The results highlight the importance of building resilience to reduce self-stigma and thereby increase help seeking. Given the different ethnic backgrounds of the participants, there emerged some multicultural issues that would seem to contribute to persisting mental illness stigma. These and any cultural differences are discussed.

Article Details

Stigma and Exclusion in Cross-Cultural Contexts Special Issue January 2014 (Peer Reviewed)