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Soc Sci Med. 2003 Jan;56(2):299-312.

Subjective experiences of stigma. A focus group study of schizophrenic patients, their relatives and mental health professionals.

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  • 1University of Leipzig, Department of Psychiatry, Johannisallee 20, 04317 Leipzig, Germany.


Schizophrenia has been found to be one of the most stigmatising conditions. To the present, most research on stigma related to mental illness has drawn conclusions on the adverse reactions faced by people with schizophrenia from studies on public attitudes or analogue behavioural studies. The views of those exposed to the stigmatising reactions, however, has largely been absent. Aiming to explore stigma from the subjective perspective of people with schizophrenia, a focus group study was carried out at the four centres involved in the WPA Global Programme against Stigma and Discrimination because of Schizophrenia in Germany. In order to get a comprehensive picture of how stigma affects the lives of schizophrenic patients, collateral information was sought from relatives and mental health professionals. The focus groups enquired about concrete stigmatisation experiences of the patients and incidences of stigma witnessed by the other two groups. Focus group sessions were tape-recorded and transcripts were coded using an inductive method. Results reveal four dimensions of stigma: interpersonal interaction, structural discrimination, public images of mental illness and access to social roles. Examples are given for the views of patients, relatives and mental health professionals on each of the four stigma types. The consequences for conceptualisations of stigma and the development of effective strategies to reduce stigma and discrimination because of schizophrenia are discussed.

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