Stigma Resistance through NSF Assistance

Photo: Courtesy of Christian Hopkins

If an optometrist determines your eyesight is sub-par, you are prescribed corrective lenses or glasses. If your blood pressure is running high, a physician would ask you to consider dietary restrictions, medication and/or regular exercise. 

When it comes to our physical health, regular upkeep and preventative measures are not only expected, but encouraged within our society. However, mental health disorders have yet to be looked upon with the same grace and understanding.

Kristen Marcussen, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Sociology, was recently awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her proposal titled, “Understanding Social Stigma, Stigma Resistance and the Mental Illness Identity.”

This $213,000 grant aims to understand and dismantle the stigma associated with mental illness and encourages those with concerns to utilize available resources and minimize the impact of harmful misconceptions. 

Using a probability sample of 2,000 adults from the nonpartisan research organization at the University of Chicago (NORC), Marcussen intends to research factors influencing perceptions of mental health in diverse social groups and among participants with varying disorder severity. 

Image of an online assessment by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay  

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay  

Through a comprehensive assessment designed to measure stigma associated with the mental illness identity, participants will confidentially disclose characteristics and attributes specific to mental illness. The diverse sample will allow for a broader understanding of how these misrepresentations impact the way one chooses to manage their concerns, and how these management strategies help to reduce the harmful effects of stigma. 

​​“People tend to view themselves in light of how they think others view them, and those others can range from close personal relationships to the general society. To the extent that harmful misconceptions about mental illness are widespread, it can feel like negative feedback is coming from all directions. This negative feedback has implications for self-esteem, quality of life, and treatment seeking,” Marcussen said. “This project seeks to identify ways that individuals ‘resist’ social stigma, and examine the effectiveness of stigma resistance strategies for well-being.”

Common misconceptions and a lack of public support can result in individuals keeping their recovery process to themselves, or choose not to seek treatment at all, due to fear of judgement or unwarranted reactions.

No one is immune to life’s hardships and adversity. At some point, the majority of people will face a moment or event that triggers an undesired reaction such as an anxiety attack or depressive episode. While these reactions are not a favorable response to stressors, everyone can benefit from an increased understanding of how mental health impacts everyday obligations and tasks. 

“Most people know someone with on-going mental health issues or may even face these issues themselves,” Marcussen said. “The more mental health issues are understood, the more help-seeking behavior will be encouraged among those affected.” 

Learn more about the Department of Sociology.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 6, 2021 - 1:21pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - 11:26am
WRITTEN BY:
Theresa Lovrak