OBJECTIVES: The authors used nationwide survey data to characterize current public conceptions related to recognition of mental illness and perceived causes, dangerousness, and desired social distance. METHODS: Data were derived from a vignette experiment included in the 1996 General Social Survey. Respondents (n = 1444) were randomly assigned to 1 of 5 vignette conditions. Four vignettes described psychiatric disorders meeting diagnostic criteria, and the fifth depicted a "troubled person" with subclinical problems and worries. RESULTS: Results indicate that the majority of the public identifies schizophrenia (88%) and major depression (69%) as mental illnesses and that most report multicausal explanations combining stressful circumstances with biologic and genetic factors. Results also show, however, that smaller proportions associate alcohol (49%) or drug (44%) abuse with mental illness and that symptoms of mental illness remain strongly connected with public fears about potential violence and with a desire for limited social interaction. CONCLUSIONS: While there is reason for optimism in the public's recognition of mental illness and causal attributions, a strong stereotype of dangerousness and desire for social distance persist. These latter conceptions are likely to negatively affect people with mental illness.

Related

No related items

TOOLS

Downloaded 37,126 times

SHARE

ARTICLE CITATION

B G Link, J C Phelan, M Bresnahan, A Stueve, and B A PescosolidoDivision of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA. “Public conceptions of mental illness: labels, causes, dangerousness, and social distance.”, American Journal of Public Health 89, no. 9 (September 1, 1999): pp. 1328-1333.

https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.89.9.1328

PMID: 10474548