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Am Psychol. 1999 Sep;54(9):765-76.

Lessons from social psychology on discrediting psychiatric stigma.

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  • 1Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, University of Chicago, USA.


Advocacy, government, and public-service groups rely on a variety of strategies to diminish the impact of stigma on persons with severe mental illness. These strategies include protest, education, and promoting contact between the general public and persons with these disorders. The authors argue that social psychological research on ethnic minority and other group stereotypes should be considered when implementing these strategies. Such research indicates that (a) attempts to suppress stereotypes through protest can result in a rebound effect; (b) education programs may be limited because many stereotypes are resilient to change; and (c) contact is enhanced by a variety of factors, including equal status, cooperative interaction, and institutional support. Future directions for research and practice to reduce stigma toward persons with severe mental illness are discussed.

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