Background: Many people with schizophrenia experience stigma caused by other people's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour; this can lead to impoverishment, social marginalisation, and low quality of life. We aimed to describe the nature, direction, and severity of anticipated and experienced discrimination reported by people with schizophrenia.
Methods: We did a cross-sectional survey in 27 countries, in centres affiliated to the INDIGO Research Network, by use of face-to-face interviews with 732 participants with schizophrenia. Discrimination was measured with the newly validated discrimination and stigma scale (DISC), which produces three subscores: positive experienced discrimination; negative experienced discrimination; and anticipated discrimination.
Findings: Negative discrimination was experienced by 344 (47%) of 729 participants in making or keeping friends, by 315 (43%) of 728 from family members, by 209 (29%) of 724 in finding a job, 215 (29%) of 730 in keeping a job, and by 196 (27%) of 724 in intimate or sexual relationships. Positive experienced discrimination was rare. Anticipated discrimination affected 469 (64%) in applying for work, training, or education and 402 (55%) looking for a close relationship; 526 (72%) felt the need to conceal their diagnosis. Over a third of participants anticipated discrimination for job seeking and close personal relationships when no discrimination was experienced.
Interpretation: Rates of both anticipated and experienced discrimination are consistently high across countries among people with mental illness. Measures such as disability discrimination laws might, therefore, not be effective without interventions to improve self-esteem of people with mental illness.