Category: Schizophrenia / Psychotic Disorders

Symposium

Internalized Mental Health Stigma and Physical Health Status Among Individuals With SMI

Saturday, November 18
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Aqua Salon A & B, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Severe Mental Illness | Stigma | Health Psychology
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: There are high prevalence rates of co-occurring medical disorders among individuals with psychiatric concerns, especially serious mental illness (SMI). Internalized mental health stigma has been found to not only negatively affect mental health symptoms and psychosocial functioning, but has also been linked to worse physical health status and decreased engagement with medical care. The aim of this study was to further examine the effects of mental health stigma on physical health status.


Method: Baseline data from 516 participants in a study examining the effect of a group-based intervention to reduce internalized stigma among individuals with SMI were used. Participants included adults with SMI who were receiving mental health treatment at community mental health centers or Veteran Affairs hospitals. Data included: demographic variables (e.g., age, race, education, veteran status); physical health status (SF-12); stigma (Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness Scale, ISMI; Self-Stigma of Mental Illness Scale, SSMI); and psychiatric symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory, BSI).


Results: Age was found to be related to physical health status, with older individuals reporting worse health status (r = -.19, p < .001). Individuals with worse health status reported greater frequency and intensity of psychiatric symptoms (BSI global severity index: r = -.22, p < .001). Individuals with worse health status reported greater internalized stigma based on responses to all four ISMI subscales and two of four SSMI subscales. Specifically, individuals with worse health status were more likely to feel alienated (r = -.09, p < .05), endorse mental illness stereotypes (r = -.09, p < .05), feel discriminated against (r = -.09, p < .05), and be more socially withdrawn (r = -.12, p < .01). Additionally, they reported being more aware of stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with mental illness (r = -.11, p < .05) and report less self-respect due to beliefs about self as someone with mental illness (r = -.10, p < .05). Worse health status was not correlated with the extent to which individuals agreed with stigmatizing beliefs (r = -.03, p = .48) or applied these beliefs to themselves (r = -.05, p = .27).


Conclusions: These data support research demonstrating the larger impact of internalized mental illness stigma by examining its relation to physical health status. Understanding this relation may be helpful in addressing issues related to improving access and engagement in medical care among individuals with serious mental illness.

Tisha Travaglini

Postdoctoral Fellow
VA Baltimore MIRECC/University of Maryland Medical Center

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