Stigma as a Mental Health Policy Controversy: Positions, Options, and Strategies for Change

  • Bernice A. Pescosolido


There is perhaps no more contested phenomenon in mental health policy debates than stigma. From claims that it has dissipated to ones that see it as “the most formidable” obstacle to recovery, research on the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental illness raises issues about its roots, proper targets for change, and even the utility of the term itself. What remains unquestioned is stigma’s real and potentially devastating effects on individuals, families, systems, and societies. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce conceptual basics, summarize research from contemporary studies, and outline positions from two recent landmark guides on anti-stigma programming and policy. A key element in all efforts (the message) and one platform (media) is pursued more deeply. The chapter describes the strengths and weaknesses of change strategies and novel results from recent experimental research on messages. Remaining challenges that confront the design and implementation of stigma reduction efforts are considered.



Funding is acknowledged from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH065950 and supplement R01 MH065950-S1; R01 MH074985), the National Science Foundation, Bring Change to Mind, and the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University to the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research. I thank Alex Capshew for her usual highly honed editorial skills.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernice A. Pescosolido
    • 1
  1. 1.Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services ResearchIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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