Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Sara K. Bridges

Committee Member

Douglas Strohmer

Committee Member

Ovrebo Elin

Committee Member

Richard Scott


Stigma is thought to be the combination of stereotypic beliefs, prejudicial attitudes, and discriminatory actions directed towards a particular group of people. A wide range of negative consequences, ranging from restricted employment and housing opportunities (Manning & White, 1995), to lowered self esteem and social status (Ritscher, Otilingam, & Grajales, 2003) are associated with stigma. Researchers maintain that people with mental illnesses are among the most stigmatized group in the world (Hinshaw & Stier, 2008). Though growing efforts to combat stigma against mental illness continue (Sartorius & Schulze, 2005), many researchers claim that public perceptions of mental illness are in fact worsening (Abbey et al., 2011). Despite the numerous studies that have elucidated some characteristics common to a stigmatizing disposition (e.g., Siltion, Flannelly, Milstein, & Vaaler, 2011), the field still lacks clear knowledge about which factors or characteristics may be contributing to a less stigmatizing disposition toward the mentally ill. Research indicates that individuals high in interpersonal skills such as emapthy and perspective-taking have significantly improved attitudes towards other historicall marginalized and oppressed groups (Dovidio, Pagotto, & Helb, 2011). Other theorists suggest that familiarty with and exposure to mental illness is associated with improved attitudes towards the mentally ill (Steele, Maruyama, & Galynker, 2010). This study investigated whether a participants' ability to empathize and perspective-take as well as their intimacy with and exposure to mental illness had any influence on their stigma towards mental illness. Data from 299 participants were analyzed using multiple regression procedures. Results indicated that individuals who have some level of intimacy with and exposure to mental illness also tend to have fewer feelings of anxiety when around someone with a mental illness; fewer concerns that mental illness causes troubles for relationships; more positive beliefs about the prognosis of mental illnesses; and more positive beliefs about the appearance and physical self-care of the mentally ill. Empathy and perspective-taking did not uniquely account for a significant amount of variance in stigma towards mental illness among participants. Implications for the field of counseling psychology, limitations of the study, as well as future directions are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.