Self-Disclosure and Non-Communication: Stigma Management in Third-Sector Transitional Employment

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 11;18(22):11840. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182211840.


People who are recovering from a mental illness often have difficulties finding and maintaining employment. One of the main reasons for these difficulties is the negative label, or stigma, attached to mental illnesses. People who possess stigmatizing characteristics may use compensatory stigma management strategies to reduce discrimination. Due to mental illnesses' invisible characteristics, information control is an important stigma management strategy. People can often choose whether they disclose or non-communicate their illness. Nevertheless, it might be difficult to decide when and to whom to disclose or non-communicate the stigma. Since stigma management is a dilemmatic process, workers in mental health services play an important role in informing their clients of when it is best to disclose or non-communicate their illness. In this article, we adopt the perspective of discursive social psychology to investigate how workers of one mental health service programme evaluate and construct self-disclosure and non-communication as stigma management strategies. We demonstrate how these workers recommend non-communication and formulate strict stipulations for self-disclosure. At the same time, they differentiate non-communication from lying or providing false information. The study contributes to an improved understanding of stigma management in contemporary mental health services.

Keywords: discursive social psychology; employment; mental illness; non-communication; rehabilitation; self-disclosure; stigma; stigma management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disclosure*
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Stigma