, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 14-23
Date: 11 Oct 2006

Stigma and discrimination towards people with schizophrenia and their family members

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Abstract

Background

There is a scarcity of data regarding the actual stigma and discrimination experienced by schizophrenic patients and their relatives. Those experiences can vary significantly depending on the specific social group involved. We have explored such phenomena in our culture with a qualitative technique.

Methods

We developed a qualitative study with focus groups of clinically stable schizophrenic outpatients (N = 18) and relatives (N = 26). Three groups were performed in each sample.

Results

Six categories of stigma and discrimination experiences were extracted from the patients’ data: Mental illness vs. Lack of will, Prejudice related to dangerousness, Over-protection-infantilization, Daily social discrimination, Discrimination in health care, Descendants, Avoidance-social isolation. Data from relatives were divided into three sets: discrimination towards the patients witnessed by relatives, discrimination suffered by the relatives themselves and discrimination exerted by the relatives on the patients.

Conclusions

Patients and relatives describe a great variety of stigma and discrimination experiences in all areas of life, including health care. Isolation and avoidance are common reactions to those experiences. Publicizing these stigma and discrimination experiences could help to reduce stigmatizing attitudes in society and result in healthier reactions from patients, favoring a better course of the illness.