Racial Differences in Stigmatizing Attitudes Toward People With Mental Illness

  • Anglin D
  • Link B
  • Phelan J
  • 16

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Abstract

Stigma is a significant impediment to the successful treatment of
individuals with mental illness, especially among racial minority
groups. Although limited, the literature suggests that African Americans
are more likely than Caucasians to believe that people with mental
illnesses are dangerous. The authors reexamined this issue and assessed
whether racial differences also extend to beliefs about how people with
mental illness should be treated if violent. Methods: A nationally
representative probability sample of 1,241 respondents participated in a
telephone survey. The analysis focused on the 81 African-American and
590 Caucasian respondents who participated in a vignette experiment
about a person with schizophrenia or major depressive disorder. The
authors analyzed respondents' perceptions that the person would be
violent, as well as their attitudes about blame and punishment. Results:
African Americans were more likely than Caucasians to believe that
individuals with schizophrenia or major depression would do something
violent to other people. At the same time they were less likely to
believe these individuals should be blamed and punished for violent
behavior. These racial differences were not attributable to
sociodemographic factors. Conclusions: The study found racial
differences in stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with mental
illness; however, African Americans' negative perception did not
necessarily result in endorsement of harsher treatment of mentally ill
persons. This study highlights the complexity of the stigma process and
emphasizes the need to consider racial differences in developing
interventions targeted to improve public attitudes.

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Authors

  • D. M. Anglin

  • B. G. Link

  • J. C. Phelan

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