Self-stigma and the "why try" effect: impact on life goals and evidence-based practices

World Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;8(2):75-81. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2009.tb00218.x.


Many individuals with mental illnesses are troubled by self-stigma and the subsequent processes that accompany this stigma: low self-esteem and self-efficacy. "Why try" is the overarching phenomenon of interest here, encompassing self-stigma, mediating processes, and their effect on goal-related behavior. In this paper, the literature that explains "why try" is reviewed, with special focus on social psychological models. Self-stigma comprises three steps: awareness of the stereotype, agreement with it, and applying it to one's self. As a result of these processes, people suffer reduced self-esteem and self-efficacy. People are dissuaded from pursuing the kind of opportunities that are fundamental to achieving life goals because of diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy. People may also avoid accessing and using evidence-based practices that help achieve these goals. The effects of self-stigma and the "why try" effect can be diminished by services that promote consumer empowerment.

Keywords: Self-stigma; empowerment; mental illness; public stigma; self-efficacy; self-esteem.