The articles below will be published online March 14, 2013, at 4 p.m. (EDT) by the American Journal of Public Health ® under "First Look" at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shmtl, and they are currently scheduled to appear in the May 2013 print issue of the Journal, a special issue devoted to the topic of mental health stigma.
"First Look" articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, www.apha.org, and is available at www.ajph.org.
In a historic first, the American Journal of Public Health has devoted an issue to covering stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses, a topic that traditionally is under-researched and under-reported.
"Having worked in the mental health field for more than 40 years, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects that stigma and discrimination can have on a person's recovery from mental illness," said former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter who founded the Carter Center's Mental Health Program in 1991. "With one-quarter of Americans affected by mental illnesses every year, it is fitting that the American Journal of Public Health has devoted this special theme issue to the important role stigma plays in overall public health and in wellness."
The publication includes more than 30 articles by a variety of nationally and internationally renowned experts on the subject. Among the research and commentaries included in the issue are the following:
1) Global public understanding of mental illness high, yet social stigma persist
2) Commentary: Anti-stigma programs needed to supplement laws made to protect persons with mental illness
3) Public stigma can lead to psychological distress among transgender populations, peer support may be the remedy
1)Global public understanding of mental illness high, yet social stigma persist
Many people now recognize, accept and endorse the treatment of mental illness, yet mental health prejudices and stigmas still persist, according to new research from the American Journal of Public Health.
Data were collected from 16 countries, including the U.S. and countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, in which individuals responded to non-labeled vignettes depicting individuals with schizophrenia and depression. The study analyzed public sentiments toward persons with mental illness through participant responses evaluated to understand knowledge and prejudice.
Results indicated that, across the globe, individuals were generally informed about mental health. Many respondents recognized the severity of mental illness, endorsed the use of psychiatry, acknowledged the efficacy of treatment and endorsed mental health professionals. However, many also expressed prejudice including the potential for self-directed violence, unpredictability, or excluding individuals as potential in-laws or teachers.
The study's authors explain, "Our findings reinforce recent conclusions that individuals endorse the 'modern' understandings of the etiology of mental illness, making traditional educational campaigns focusing on mental illness as a 'real' disease a low priority. If the public understands that mental illnesses are medical problems but still reject individuals with mental illness, then educational campaigns directed toward ensuring inclusion become more salient."
The authors charge, "Unless we attack stigma at the cultural level, the prospects for changing the lives of those affected by mental illness is unlikely. A focus on small-scale individual-level efforts, even if successful, will continually confront negative reinforcement from the larger culture."