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Dissertation: The fear of stigmatisation related to the use of mental health services persists

9 Jan 2012

In his dissertation study Esa Aromaa, M. Pol. Sc., found that a great deal of stigmatisation continues to be associated with mental disorders. Those who have had personal experiences with depression are more tolerant than others of people who suffer from mental problems and their attitude towards drugs used to treat depression are more positive. On the other hand, they are also more pessimistic about recovery from depression. Aromaa studied stigmatising attitudes related to mental disorders and their impact on the use of mental health services by people suffering from depression.

According to the dissertation, people suffering from mental disorders were assigned many negative characteristics. They were often regarded as weak and unpredictable, and talking to them was seen as difficult. People suffering from mental disorders for their part feared that a disclosure of their problems would lead to a loss of friends and discrimination in the workplace or in connection with health services. 

Women, highly educated persons and those whose mother tongue was Swedish had fewer negative beliefs about depression than others. According to Aromaa, more positive beliefs, however, do not automatically reduce discriminating behaviour if we feel that a person undergoing rehabilitation from a mental problem somehow threatens our own well-being or that of a close relative.
Most respondents to Aromaa’s study did not blame people for their depressive illness, but on the other hand said that they were responsible for their own recovery and said that persons with depression should “get a hold of themselves.”

Based on the results, the message that depression is a real illness is not sufficient for projects that aim at reducing the stigma attached to it. It is also important to emphasise that people with depression have not caused their illness and that it is not necessary for them to recover on their own. An important way to improve the impact of help and reduce the stigmatisation connected with the seeking of treatment is also to provide mental health care at the basic service level in connection with other social and health services. For example, the hiring of nurses at health centres who are trained in treating depression has provided positive experiences throughout Finland.


Attitudes towards people with mental disorders in a general population in Finland

Further information:

Esa Aromaa
Project Co-ordinator
Tel. 050 345 9441

Updated 9 Jan 2012