Personal and perceived stigma towards mental illness between psychology and non-psychology participants

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Di Palma, Penelope
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BA (Hons) in Psychology
Dublin Business School
The present study examined whether psychology and non-psychology participants would differ in relation to levels of stigma towards people with mental illness based on given vignettes. Questionnaires were given to 112 participants of which 62 were psychology students and 50 non psychology. The questionnaires consisted of three different vignettes on early schizophrenia, depression and troubled person, which participants were asked to diagnose, followed by questionnaires on helpful interventions, personal distance, perceived stigma, perception of dangerousness and GHQ-12. As predicted, psychology students showed significantly lower levels of stigma towards mental health than non-psychology students. The study also showed that psychology students diagnosed the person depicted in the vignette more accurately than non-psychology participants. The findings were discussed in relation to how mental health is perceived both by mental health professionals and the general population, as well as an understanding of mental illness and its diagnoses. Some possible interventions to reduce levels of stigma are also discussed. Author keywords: Stigma, mental health, social distance, perception of dangerousness