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Br J Psychiatry. 2004 Feb;184:176-81.

Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness. Qualitative study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK.



Stigma defines people in terms of some distinguishing characteristic and devalues them as a consequence.


To describe the relationship of stigma with mental illness, psychiatric diagnosis, treatment and its consequences of stigma for the individual.


Narrative interviews were conducted by trained users of the local mental health services; 46 patients were recruited from community and day mental health services in North London.


Stigma was a pervasive concern to almost all participants. People with psychosis or drug dependence were most likely to report feelings and experiences of stigma and were most affected by them. Those with depression, anxiety and personality disorders were more affected by patronising attitudes and feelings of stigma even if they had not experienced any overt discrimination. However, experiences were not universally negative.


Stigma may influence how a psychiatric diagnosis is accepted, whether treatment will be adhered to and how people with mental illness function in the world. However, perceptions of mental illness and diagnoses can be helpful and non-stigmatising for some patients.

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