, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 705-712
Date: 13 Aug 2009

Mental illness stigma and willingness to seek mental health care in the European Union

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Abstract

Objective

It is often assumed that individual stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill are linked to stigmatizing attitudes in the social milieu and that both, individual and social stigmatizing attitudes are major barriers to mental health treatment seeking. This study aims to examine these assumptions.

Method

Data from the 2005–2006 Eurobarometer general population survey (N = 29,248) are used to examine the association of social stigmatizing attitudes assessed in a random half of the sample with individual stigmatizing attitudes assessed in the other half of the sample, and to examine the association of both individual and social stigmatizing attitudes with willingness to seek professional help.

Results

Social stigmatizing attitudes are specifically and strongly associated with individual stigmatizing attitudes. Both social and individual stigmatizing attitudes are associated with willingness to seek professional help. Believing the mentally ill to be dangerous or not likely to recover, or living in a community with such beliefs, are associated with increased willingness to seek help; whereas, believing the mentally ill to be unpredictable or blameworthy for their illness, or living in a community with strong beliefs in blameworthiness of the mentally ill, are associated with decreased willingness to seek professional help.

Conclusion

The view that all stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness are associated with reluctance to seek professional help may be naive as some stigmatizing attitudes may be associated with increased willingness to seek help. The complex association of different stigmatizing attitudes with professional help seeking should be carefully considered in planning anti-stigma campaigns.