Purpose: Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) and individuals with mental illness are consistently found to be among the most socially excluded populations and continue to face substantial health, housing, and employment disparities due to stigma. Although this has spurred extensive research efforts and theoretical advancements in the study of stigma toward mental illness, the stigma of ID has received only limited attention. In this article we explore the application of mental illness stigma research for ID.
Design: We carefully reviewed the existing research on mental illness stigma as a foundation for a parallel summary of the empirical literature on attitudes and stigma related to ID.
Results: Based on our review, there has not been a systematic approach to the study of stigma toward ID. However, multilevel conceptual models of stigma have received much attention in the mental illness literature. These models have been used to inform targeted interventions and have application to the study of the stigma process for individuals with ID. Nonetheless, there are indeed key differences between-as well as substantial variability within-the ID and mental illness populations that must be considered.
Conclusions: Stigma is an issue of social justice impacting the lives of individuals with ID, yet there remains virtually no systematic framework applied to the understanding of the stigma process for this group. Future research can draw on the stigma models developed in the mental illness literature to guide more rigorous research efforts and ultimately the development of effective, multilevel stigma-change strategies for ID.