Stigma has repeatedly been identified as a major barrier to help seeking for mental health problems across various disorders and across the lifespan. Stigma is also an obstacle to community reintegration and rehabilitation in people suffering from severe mental illness. Moreover, people with psychiatric diagnoses suffer the effects of discrimination in health care settings. Not only do people with mental illness have diminished access to primary care, there is evidence to suggest that physicians perform fewer physical examinations and laboratory investigations, provide less preventive health care, and undertake fewer therapeutic interventions in this population. Researchers are increasingly framing the problem of stigma as a public health issue.
So begins a new paper that considers stigma and mental health.
This week’s Reading: “Explicit and Implicit Attitudes of Canadian Psychiatrists Toward People With Mental Illness” by Dr. Layla Dabby et al., which was just published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
This paper shows that members of the public demonstrated relatively negative explicit attitudes towards mental illness. In fact, Canadians reported a desire for greater social distance from the patient with schizophrenia as opposed to the patient with diabetes, even though the study describes the patient with schizophrenia as well-controlled by medication. Wow.
Except here’s the twist in the tale. The paper actually didn’t look at the public. The paper looked at psychiatrists and residents of psychiatry. In other words, the relatively negative explicit attitude wasn’t from the uninformed small businessman in Edmonton or the teacher in Halifax; it reflects the biases of people like… me.
Is this psychiatry’s dirty little secret? Continue reading