A new report notes that more than 40 percent of individuals with serious mental illness do not receive care, while many who begin treatment fail to complete it.
A main factor is the stigma attached to mental illness, according to researchers.
“The prejudice and discrimination of mental illness is as disabling as the illness itself. It undermines people attaining their personal goals and dissuades them from pursuing effective treatments,” said psychological scientist Dr. Patrick W. Corrigan of the Illinois Institute of Technology, lead author on the report.
In the report, Corrigan and co-authors Benjamin G. Druss. M.D., of Emory University in Atlanta and Deborah A. Perlick, Ph.D., of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, examine the available scientific literature, identifying different types of stigma that can prevent people from getting mental health care.
Public stigma emerges when stereotypes — that people with mental illness are dangerous or unpredictable, for example — lead to prejudice against those who suffer from mental illness, the researchers explain.
The desire to avoid public stigma causes them to drop out of treatment or avoid it entirely for fear of being associated with negative stereotypes. Public stigma may also influence the beliefs and behaviors of those closest to people with mental illness, including friends, family, and care providers, the researchers noted.
Stigma often pervades societal institutions and systems, the researchers add. The fact that mental health care is not covered by insurance to the same extent as medical care, and the fact that mental health research is not funded to the same levels as medical research, are two clear indications that stigma targeted at mental illness continues to exist at the structural level, they say.
In the face of these realities, the researchers identify approaches to addressing stigma that can help increase the number of people with mental illness who do seek care. The approaches operate at various levels, from promoting personal stories of recovery and enhancing support systems, to instituting public policies that enhance actual systems of care, according to the researchers.
The report was published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.