Examining a progressive model of self-stigma and its impact on people with serious mental illness

Psychiatry Res. 2011 Oct 30;189(3):339-43. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.05.024. Epub 2011 Jun 28.


The self-esteem of some people with serious psychiatric disorders may be hurt by internalizing stereotypes about mental illness. A progressive model of self-stigma yields four stages leading to diminished self-esteem and hope: being aware of associated stereotypes, agreeing with them, applying the stereotypes to one's self, and suffering lower self-esteem. We expect to find associations between proximal stages - awareness and agreement - to be greater than between more distal stages: awareness and harm. The model was tested on 85 people with schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses who completed measures representing the four stages of self-stigma, another independently-developed instrument representing self-stigma, proxies of harm (lowered self-esteem and hopelessness), and depression. These measures were also repeated at 6-month follow-up. Results were mixed but some evidence supported the progressive nature of self-stigma. Most importantly, separate stages of the progressive model were significantly associated with lowered self-esteem and hope. Implications of the model for stigma change are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Helplessness, Learned
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires