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Psychiatry. 2002 Winter;65(4):313-25.

The differential effectiveness of psychosocial and biogenetic causal explanations in reducing negative attitudes toward "mental illness".

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  • 1Psychology Department, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Abstract

Given the apparent failure of the "mental illness is an illness like any other" approach to reducing negative stereotypes of people with mental health problems, the differential effects of biogenetic and psychosocial explanations of psychiatric symptoms were evaluated. Attitude measures were administered to young New Zealand adults before and after a video portraying a young man with psychotic symptoms followed by either biogenetic or psychosocial explanations. Consistent with previous studies, the "medical model" approach significantly increased perceptions of dangerousness and unpredictability. Following the psychosocial explanation there was a slight but statistically insignificant improvement in attitudes. Participants who knew users of psychiatric services, or who had used services themselves, had more positive attitudes than other participants. It is recommended that destigmatization programs minimize efforts to persuade the public that mental health problems are biogenetic illnesses, and focus instead on increasing exposure to users of mental health services. Further research is required to determine whether such exposure should include life histories, so as to highlight the psychosocial causes of mental health problems.

PMID:
12530335
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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