Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Determinants that shape public attitudes towards the mentally ill

A Dutch public study*

  • ORIGINAL PAPER
  • Published:
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Background

The stigmatisation of the mentally ill is considered a well-established fact. To improve negative attitudes among the general public, we need to identify the factors that cause them. Drawing from previous studies, we combined a variety of variables to examine a comprehensive explanative model.

Objectives

We examined a sample of the Dutch public on their willingness to interact with mental patients. We examined a number of determinants concerning their influence on levels of social distance: demographical characteristics of the public, their beliefs about stereotypes of mental patients, their beliefs about causes of mental problems, their familiarity with mental illness.

Methods

We employed a questionnaire survey among two sub-samples of the Dutch public (n = 812, response 33%).

Results

Attributing psychiatric problems to structural causes (i.e. causes beyond patients’ control and responsibility, such as genetic transmission) is associated with less social distance. Conversely, attribution to individual factors (e.g. drug abuse) related to more distant attitudes. Stereotypical beliefs about mental patients (e.g. untrustworthiness, aggressiveness, causing disturbances) relate to more social distance from mental patients.

Conclusions

Results implied that our comprehensive model explains only a modest amount of variance, but shows that to improve public mental health literacy and attitudes should first deal with the most negative stereotypical beliefs.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. In the Netherlands nearly every household had a fixed telephone connection in 1997 [19]

References

  1. Link BG, Phelan JC, Bresnahan M, Stueve A, Pescosolido BA (1999) Public conceptions of mental illness: labels, causes, dangerousness and social distance. Am J Public Heath 89:1907–1912

    Google Scholar 

  2. Wolff G, Pathare S, Craig T, Leff J (1996) Community knowledge of mental illness and reaction to mentally ill people. Br J Psychiatry 168:191–198

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Crisp AH, Gelder MG, Rix S, Meltzer HI, Rowlands OJ (2000) Stigmatisation of people with mental illness. Br J Psychiatry 177:4–7

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Angermeyer MC, Matschinger H (2003) The stigma of mental illness: effects of labeling on public attitudes towards people with mental disorder. Acta Psychiatr Scand 108:304–309

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Arkar H, Eker D (1994) Effects of psychiatric labels on attitudes toward mental illness in a Turkish sample. Int J Social Psychiatry 40:205–213

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Hugo CJ, Boshoff DEL, Traut A, Zungu-Dirwayi N, Stein DJ (2003) Community attitudes toward and knowledge of mental illness in South Africa. Social Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 38:715–719

    Google Scholar 

  7. Link BG, Cullen FT, Struening E, Strout P, Dohrenwend B (1989) A modified labeling theory approach to mental disorders: an empirical assessment. Am Sociol Rev 54:400–423

    Google Scholar 

  8. Martin JK, Pescosolido BA, Tuch SA (2000) Of fear and loathing: the role of ‘disturbing behavior’, labels and causal attributions in shaping public attitudes toward people with mental illness. J Health Social Behav 42:208–223

    Google Scholar 

  9. Socall DW, Holtgraves T (1992) Attitudes toward the mentally ill: the effects of label and beliefs. Sociol Quart J Midwest Sociol Soc 33:435–446

    Google Scholar 

  10. Read J, Law A (1999) The relationship of causal beliefs and contact with users of mental health services to attitudes to the mentally ill. Int J Social Psychiatry 45:216–229

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Corrigan PW, Green A, Lundin R, Kubiak MA, Penn DL (2001) Familiarity with and social distance to people who have serious mental illness. Psychiatr Services 52:953–958

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Mootz M (1990) Enkele houdingen van Nederlanders tegenover (ex)psychiatrische patiënten 1976–1987. Tijdschrift voor Sociale Gezondheidszorg 68:320–327

    Google Scholar 

  13. Angermeyer MC, Matschinger H (1996) The effects of personal experience with mental illness on attitudes towards individuals suffering from mental disorders. Social Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 31:321–326

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Phelan JC, Link BG, Stueve A, Pescolido BA (2000) Public conceptions of mental illness in 1950 and 1996: what is mental illness and is it to be feared? J Heath Social Behav 41:188–207

    Google Scholar 

  15. Farina AR, Felner D (1973) Employment interviewer reactions to former mental patients. J Abnormal Psychol 82:268–272

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Angermeyer MC, Schulze B (2001) Reinforcing stereotypes: how the focus on forensic cases in news reporting may influence public attitudes towards the mentally ill. Int J Law Psychiatry 24:469–486

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Jorm AF, Korten AE, Jacomb PA, Christensen H, Rodgers B, Pollitt P (1997) Public beliefs about causes and risk factors for depression and schizophrenia. Social Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 32:143–148

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Vezzoli R, Archiati L, Buizza C, Pasqualetti P, Rossi G, Pioli R (2001) Attitude towards psychiatric patient: a pilot study in a northern Italian town. Eur Psychiatry 16:451–458

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. CBSCentraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (1997) Statistical Yearbook [Statistisch jaarboek]. CBS: Voorburg/Heerlen

    Google Scholar 

  20. Whatley C (1958) Social attitudes toward discharged mental patients. Social Problems 6:313–320

    Google Scholar 

  21. Van ‘t Veer JTB, Kraan HF, Drossaert CHC, Modde JM (2005) Destigmatisation through deconcentration? A Dutch public study on the stigma of psychiatric patients [Destigmatisering door deconcentratie? Een Nederlandse bevolkingstudie naar het stigma van psychiatrische patiënten]. Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Psychiatrie 47:659–669

    Google Scholar 

  22. Kwekkeboom MH (2000) Sociaal draagvlak voor de vermaatschappelijking in de geestelijke gezondheidszorg: ontwikkelingen tussen 1976 en 1997. Tijdschrift voor gezondheidswetenschappen 3:165–171

    Google Scholar 

  23. Sumnall HR, Wagstaff GF, Cole JC (2004) Self-reported psychopathology in polydrug users. J Psychopharmacol 18:75–82

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Holtmann M, Becker K, Hartmann M, Schmidt MH (2002) Is there a temporal correlation between substance abuse and psychosis in adolescents? Zeitschrift fur Kinder-und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie 30:97–103

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Crocker J (1999) Social stigma and self-esteem: situational construction of self-worth. J Exp Social Psychol 35:89–107

    Google Scholar 

  26. Monahan J (1992) Mental disorder and violent behavior: perceptions and evidence. Am Psychol 47:511–521

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Angermeyer MC, Matschinger H, Corrigan PW (2004) Familiarity with mental illness and social distance from people with schizophrenia and major depression: testing a model using data from a representative population survey. Schizophrenia Res 69:175–182

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Job T.B. van ‘t Veer.

Additional information

*This research was supported by the Dutch National Funding Organization for Mental Health (Nationaal Fonds voor de Geestelijke Volksgezondheid). We thank Diane Ricketts and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We also thank Eric Noorthoorn for his contribution to the implementation of this study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

van ‘t Veer, J.T., Kraan, H.F., Drosseart, S.H. et al. Determinants that shape public attitudes towards the mentally ill. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 41, 310–317 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-005-0015-1

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-005-0015-1

Keywords

Navigation