Stigma perceived by patients attending modern treatment settings. Some unanticipated effects of community psychiatry reforms

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1987 Jan;175(1):4-11. doi: 10.1097/00005053-198701000-00002.


In recent years reforms were instituted in the Federal Republic of Germany that were designed to facilitate the integration of psychiatric services and psychiatric patients into community life. One goal of this reform was to reduce patients' feelings of stigmatization. Because such feelings were thought to arise through patients' tenure at large, isolated state hospitals, we hypothesized that patients sent to such hospitals would feel more stigmatized than would patients assigned to a modern, integrated university hospital. Further, we hypothesized that patients in the two settings would adopt different strategies to cope with the stigma they perceived and that staff members in the two settings would share patients' views concerning these matters. Although we found that the staff in both hospitals shared our prediction that state hospital patients would perceive more stigmatization, our findings showed just the opposite. State hospital patients were significantly less likely than university hospital patients to believe that most people would devalue and discriminate against mental patients. Nor did we find strong evidence of different styles of coping with stigma among patients in the two settings. Taken together, our results suggest that in the realm of stigmatization well-intentioned efforts of reforms may have had undesirable unanticipated consequences. Given this, we suggest approaches for intervening more directly with patients in the form of "Daily Living Groups," which are designed to explicitly discuss actual and feared stigmatization.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Community Psychiatry
  • Female
  • Germany, West
  • Hospitals, Public*
  • Hospitals, State*
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Public Opinion
  • Schizophrenia / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires