Background: In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the stigma experienced by people with mental illnesses and their families. The aim of this study is to assess the amount of stigma anticipated and experienced by schizophrenia patients in one region of Poland and to examine how these figures relate to socio-demographic and clinical correlates.
Method: Subjective stigmatisation was assessed using the Inventory of Stigma Experiences of Psychiatric Patients. The mental health centres in Malopolska selected for the study were facilities representative of the whole region as regards location and type of treatment. Out of 250 patients contacted, 202 participated in the study, resulting in a response rate of 80.8%.
Results: The majority of respondents anticipated discrimination in interpersonal contacts (58%) as well as in the area of employment (55%). The most common experiences of discrimination in interpersonal interactions were the feeling of rejection by other people (87%) and having had an interpersonal contact broken off (50%). Participants living in highly urbanised areas more frequently anticipated exclusion of the mentally ill from the labour market, and older participants more often expressed the view that the mentally ill may have difficulties with access to institutions. The experience of structural discrimination was associated with lower education levels, living in a city, unemployment, being female, and being separated or widowed. The experience of rejection in interpersonal interaction was associated with lower education levels and more hospitalisations, and the experience of a negative public image of the mentally ill with unemployment and more hospitalisations.
Conclusions: (1) In southern Poland, people with schizophrenia both anticipated and experienced the strongest stigma in the domains of interpersonal relationships and employment. (2) Anticipated stigma, contrary to experienced stigma, shows hardly any correlation with patients' specific socio-demographic and clinical characteristics.