Conceptualizing and Measuring Mental Illness Stigma

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Although the last decade has seen a proliferation of research on mental illness stigma, lack of consistency and clarity in both the conceptualization and measurement of mental illness stigma has limited the accumulation of scientific knowledge about mental illness stigma and its consequences. In the present article, we bring together the different foci of mental illness stigma research with the Mental Illness Stigma Framework (MISF). The MISF provides a common framework and set of terminology for understanding mechanisms of mental illness stigma that are relevant to the study of both the stigmatized and the stigmatizer. We then apply this framework to systematically review and classify stigma measures used in the past decade according to their corresponding stigma mechanisms. We identified more than 400 measures of mental illness stigma, two thirds of which had not undergone any systematic psychometric evaluation. Stereotypes and discrimination received the most research attention, while mechanisms that focus on the perspective of individuals with mental illness (e.g., experienced, anticipated, or internalized stigma) have been the least studied. Finally, we use the MISF to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of mental illness stigma measurement, identify gaps in the literature, and provide recommendations for future research.

Stigma & Health, 4(4)
Annie B. Fox
Assistant Professor of Quantitative Methods

My research interests include mental illness stigma.