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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;19(2):131-5.

Stigmatization, social distance and exclusion because of mental illness: the individual with mental illness as a 'stranger'.

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  • 1Rhineland State Clinics Düsseldorf, Clinics of the Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.


The stigma attached to mental illness often leads to underestimation, underdiagnosis and undertreatment of mental disorders. A lack of knowledge of causes, symptoms and treatment options of mental disorders in the public and a lack of personal contact with affected individuals can result in prejudices and negative attitudes towards them-and subsequently in stigmatization and discrimination. Human beings suffering from mental illness often are recognized as 'strangers'. But, social-psychological and philosophical analysis of the recognition of 'strangeness' in mentally ill individuals as one of the main predictors for social distance towards them, shows, that the other person only remains a stranger if the available cognitive patterns of interpretation fail. Society must provide the people living in it with the interpretational patterns to take away the recognized strangeness from mentally ill persons and thus making him, or her, an accepted other member.

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