Stigma and mental health professionals: a review of the evidence on an intricate relationship

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;19(2):137-55. doi: 10.1080/09540260701278929.


In the past decade, mental health professionals have initiated a number of national and international efforts against the stigma of mental illness. While largely successful in beating stigma and discrimination, these programmes have, in part, been criticized to be largely uninformed by the lived realities of people with mental illness and their families. Some critics claimed that anti-stigma efforts led by mental health professionals were in fact a concealed attempt at de-stigmatizing psychiatry itself as a profession. This paper will attempt to throw light on the various ways in which mental health professionals are 'entangled' in anti-stigma activities. It will outline the complex relationships between stigma and the psychiatric profession, presenting evidence on how its members can simultaneously be stigmatizers, stigma recipients and powerful agents of de-stigmatization. In exploring the role of mental health professionals as targets of stigma, new findings will be presented on the role of stigma as a professional stressor in psychiatry. Conclusions will be drawn on how the pursuit of professional self-interest can be a legitimate goal of anti-stigma programmes. Further, ways in which acknowledging psychiatry's own agenda can contribute to both credibility and success of fighting stigma from within psychiatry will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Culture
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mentally Ill Persons / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Prognosis
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Public Opinion
  • Schizophrenia / therapy
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Stereotyping*


  • Psychotropic Drugs