How the world views people with mental illness and addiction differently

A new study from the University of Nevada, Reno investigated the public stigma faced by people with addiction and mental illness. Kristina DePue, associate professor of counselor education at the College of Education & Human Development, examined how public perceptions of a person can change depending on whether that person is also suffering from major depressive disorder or from dementia. ‘major depressive disorder and opioid use disorder. The study also examined how a history of involvement with the criminal justice system added to this equation.

“I’m very interested in how we view people with substance use disorders,” DePue said. “I think a lot of times the onus is on the person with the marginalized identity, and the onus has to be on the public. My research is a call for public health action and highlights the importance of the impact of perceptions on general health and well-being.

The consequences of stigmatizing people with these diseases can be serious. People facing public stigma are less likely to seek treatment, see reduced career opportunities, and may receive poorer quality care than the general population. Judging others also causes addicts to despise themselves and even stereotype themselves – a process known as self-stigma.

“Self-stigma is defined as internalized stigma,” DePue said. “When we have some kind of attribute, identity or characteristic that puts us in a stereotypical group, or rather a group with associated stereotypes, we know it. We know that we are part of this marginalized group. We know we have an identity that is seen as negative or flawed by others. Then we internalize that.

DePue found that subjects in the experiment were much more likely to stigmatize people diagnosed with both major depressive disorder and opioid use disorder, as well as those with previous criminal records. However, DePue’s experience did not find a significant difference in the stigma of people with major depressive disorder and opioid use disorder and people who suffered from the same two conditions. associated with a criminal record.

“When we incorporated the involvement of criminal justice into the experience, I thought the stigma would be higher,” DePue said. “I think what we see is when someone gets caught, as researchers we provide a nonviolent narrative of how they get caught. The model shows that participants have more pity for these people than before. This tells us that stigma differs depending on involvement in criminal justice, and more research is needed to understand public perceptions of this population.

DePue plans to replicate the survey in several different ways. These next replications will include adding different substances, examining the attitudes of treatment providers instead of the general public, and simpler changes like changing the name of the target used to assess their subjects’ perceptions.

“We added alcohol and stimulants as comparison groups,” DePue said. “We add alcohol because it’s been legal for so long and it’s socially normalized. We are going to add stimulants because we find that we are also in a crisis of stimulant consumption that has not yet been made public.

In a preliminary study, DePue also found that treatment providers were more likely to have stigmatizing attitudes towards this population than the general public, which leaves many questions unanswered in future studies and could have implications for the health of this population. clinical training.


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