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Psychiatr Serv. 2005 May;56(5):557-63.

Structural stigma in state legislation.

Author information

  • 1Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, 1033 University Place, Suite 440, Evanston, IL 60201, USA. p-corrigan@northwestern.edu



This article discusses examples of structural stigma that results from state governments' enactment of laws that diminish the opportunities of people with mental illness.


To examine current trends in structural stigma, the authors identified and coded all relevant bills introduced in 2002 in the 50 states. Bills were categorized in terms of their effect on liberties, protection from discrimination, and privacy. The terms used to describe the targets of bills were examined: persons with "mental illness" or persons who are "incompetent" or "disabled" because of mental illness.


About one-quarter of the state bills reviewed for this survey related to protection from discrimination. Within that category, half the bills reduced protections for the targeted individuals, such as restriction of firearms for people with current or past mental illness and reduced parental rights among persons with a history of mental illness. Half the bills seemed to expand protections, such as those that required mental health funding at the same levels provided for other medical conditions and those that disallowed use of mental health status in child custody cases. Legislation frequently confuses "incompetence" with "mental illness."


Examples of structural stigma uncovered by surveys such as this one can inform advocates for persons with mental illness as to where an individual state stands in relation to the number of bills that affect persons with mental illness and whether these bills expand or contract the liberties of this stigmatized group.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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