Carrie H. Cahal, M.A.
Supervised by Dr. Lauren Scharff
Defended December 2007


Persons with mental disorders often face stigmatization that negatively impacts life and hinders recovery, so associated factors need to be identified in order to create effective anti-stigma methods. The current study investigated how field of study (Psychology, Nursing, Business) and familiarity with psychological services (none, acquaintance/friend, family member, self) influenced stigmatizing attitudes. Participants (N = 210) were required to be at a junior or senior level of classification and were recruited through contact with instructors who were willing to give students extra credit or course credit for taking part in the study. Seventy-eight Psychology students (27 males, 51 females), 60 Nursing students (six males, 53 females, one unidentified), and 72 Business students (46 males, 26 females) took the Community Attitudes toward the Mentally Ill (CAMI) survey to evaluate stigmatizing attitudes (four measures: Authoritarianism, Benevolence, Social Restrictiveness, and Community Mental Health Ideology), the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to explore empathic differences between majors, and completed a demographic questionnaire asking for basic facts such as age, ethnicity, gender, and college classification. A 3 (field of study) x 4 (familiarity with psychological services: none, friend/acquaintance, family member, self) between-subjects multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was performed to determine how these factors influenced stigmatizing attitudes while controlling for the covariates of empathy and gender. Psychology and Nursing students were found to be more empathetic than Business students. The results revealed Psychology participants were less stigmatizing than Business students. Nursing students were less stigmatizing than Business students on two stigma measures (Benevolence and Authoritarianism) and similar to Business participants on two measures (Community Mental Health Ideology and Social Restrictiveness). Nursing students and Psychology students did not significantly differ on any of the four stigma measures. The current study also found that, typically, as contact with persons with mental disorders increased, stigmatizing attitudes declined. Additionally, persons familiar with counseling and persons familiar with mental disorders never significantly differed in attitudes towards individuals with mental disorders, and both groups held more positive attitudes towards those with mental disorders than persons who had no experience with psychological services. The influence of the media was also explored in the current study and results revealed that more stigmatizing views towards individuals with mental disorders were found with participants who indicated the media had strongly influenced their attitude. Results offer support for anti-stigma campaigns that focus on education and promoting contact.

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