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Stigmatization of people with mental illness has been investigated in numerous studies. Little research, however, has been done to explore how relatives of people with schizophrenia perceive and experience stigmatization and how they can fight such stigmatization.
Aiming to explore stigma from the perspective of relatives of people with schizophrenia, focus group interviews were conducted with 122 members of advocacy groups from different parts of Germany. Focus group sessions were tape- and video-recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were coded using an inductive method, generating categories (domains) from the material.
The analysis of focus group data shows that, contrary to previous research findings, discrimination and disadvantages encountered by relatives of schizophrenia patients reach far beyond the spheres of direct social interaction and access to social roles. Our study revealed two additional domains in which relatives encounter stigmatization: structural discrimination and public images of mental illness. Furthermore, psychiatry has been identified as one important source of stigma. Relatives also suggested numerous anti-stigma interventions. These can be grouped into five main categories: communication measures, support for the ill and their relatives, changes in mental health care, education and training, and control and supervision.
Based on our findings,ways of how relatives of schizophrenia patients and mental health professionals can fight against stigma are discussed.
Key wordsstigma relatives schizophrenia focus groups
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