Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Psychology (Counseling Psychology)
This was the first study in 18 years to assess licensed psychologists in the United States for their own mental illness and mental health treatment history. It is the only known study linking U.S. psychologists’ own mental health to stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental illness. The primary hypothesis, based on Allport’s contact hypothesis and Pettigrew’s intergroup contact theory, that increased levels of contact with people with mental illness would predict lower levels of stigma, was not supported. Instead a complex relationship between psychologists’ own mental illness, current psychological distress, and mental health stigma emerged.
Despite the past finding that psychologists with their own experiences of mental illness and adversity experience stigma from other psychologists, in the present study the majority of the 143 participants reported personal experience with mental illness. In fact, 73% reported experiencing a mental illness and 76% reported having sought treatment for a mental illness in their lifetimes – findings similar to past studies. In contrast, over 75% scored in the nonclinical range on current psychological distress. Despite past life experiences, when psychologists had higher levels of psychological distress their self-stigmas of seeking help and mental illness increased and they identified less with other psychologists. Furthermore, the less psychologists identified with people with mental illness the more they personally endorsed stigma against people with mental illness. I suggest that, instead of stigmatizing psychologists with past and current mental illness, we as psychologists instead strive for openness and support in order to encourage growth and resiliency among colleagues.
Mathison, Lily, "Professional psychologists and mental health stigma: Exploring a complicated relationship" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18182.