Destigmatisation through deconcentration?
A Dutch populationstudy of the stigmatisation of psychiatric patients
background Hitherto, very few population studies have examined the possible influence of the de-concentration of the mental health services on the degree to which psychiatric patients are stigmatised. aim To measure the degree to which the lay public stigmatises psychiatric patients and to examine the extent to which public stigmatisation is associated with the de-concentration of the mental health services.
method We took a sample from the Dutch general population (n = 445; response 30%) and from people living near mental health facilities (n = 367; response 34%) and measured stigmatisation in terms of (1) the desire for social distance and (2) the attribution of several stereotypical characteristics.
results The public kept its distance and remained basically reserved. The psychiatric patient is mainly stereotypical as being aggressive. In attributing stereotypical characteristics the public differentiates clearly between specific illnesses (schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction, dementia). We found no differences in the degree of stigmatisation attributed to the mentally ill by the general public and by the sample of people living close to mental health facilities. Results indicate that people with personal experience of psychiatry are less inclined to stigmatise.
conclusion The geographical dispersal of mental health facilities does not lead to de- stigmatisation. The de-concentration policy needs to pay more attention to conditions which promote de-stigmatising contacts between patients and their social environment.