Changes in Stigma Experience Among Mental Health Service Users over Time: A Qualitative Study with Focus Groups

Community Ment Health J. 2019 Nov;55(8):1389-1394. doi: 10.1007/s10597-019-00442-4. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


Public expenditure on mental health education has grown exponentially in the past two decades. A qualitative study using focus groups was used to explore whether the experience of stigma among 22 mental health service users improved over time. We identified five major themes on changes in social stigma, perceived stigma, and stigma coping. Stigmatizing and discriminatory experiences were still common in workplace, healthcare system, and relational aspects but some participants perceived that there were reductions in social stigma. Participants believed that media portrayal and celebrity effect were important in fostering greater acceptance toward people with mental illness and the importance of family support and stigma resistance for minimizing the harmful impacts of stigma. The findings are important in the future design of public educational and stigma reduction programs.

Keywords: Antistigma; Discrimination; Mental health stigma; Public attitudes; Stigma-coping; Stigmatization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept
  • Social Stigma*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires