Stigma by Association Among Family Members of People with a Mental Illness: A Qualitative Analysis

Remko L. M. van der Sanden*, Arjan E. R. Bos, Sarah E. Stutterheim, John B. Pryor, Gerjo Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

People with mental illness are not the sole recipients of stigmatisation; their immediate family members may be subjected to stigma by association. Through semi-structured interviews, we investigated experiences of stigma by association among 23 immediate family members of people with mental illness. Participants reported experiencing stigma by association from community members, mental health professionals, and civil servants. Familial relationship, co-residence, and the gender of participants appeared to play a role in their stigma experiences; parents and spouses reported different manifestations of stigma by association than siblings and children, participants who lived together with their family member with mental illness reported increased experiences of stigma by association, and in contrast to male participants, female participants reported others thinking they are overprotective and as such perpetuated, maintained, or sustained their family members' mental illness. The relevance of these factors points to the need for tailored education and emotional support provision to family members of people with mental illness. Moreover, in-service training for mental health professionals should include the development of relevant social skills that enable the recognition of familial relationships and roles, and family members' fears, concerns, and problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-417
JournalJournal of Community & Applied Social Psychology
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • stigma by association
  • mental illness
  • familial relationship
  • co-residence
  • gender

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