from Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Article first published online: 13 JAN 2012
Schomerus G, Schwahn C, Holzinger A, Corrigan PW, Grabe HJ, Carta MG, Angermeyer MC. Evolution of public attitudes about mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Objective: To explore whether the increase in knowledge about the biological correlates of mental disorders over the last decades has translated into improved public understanding of mental illness, increased readiness to seek mental health care and more tolerant attitudes towards mentally ill persons.
Method: A systematic review of all studies on mental illness-related beliefs and attitudes in the general population published before 31 March 2011, examining the time trends of attitudes with a follow-up interval of at least 2 years and using national representative population samples. A subsample of methodologically homogeneous studies was further included in a meta-regression analysis of time trends.
Results: Thirty-three reports on 16 studies on national time trends met our inclusion criteria, six of which were eligible for a meta-regression analysis. Two major trends emerged: there was a coherent trend to greater mental health literacy, in particular towards a biological model of mental illness, and greater acceptance of professional help for mental health problems. In contrast, however, no changes or even changes to the worse were observed regarding the attitudes towards people with mental illness.
Conclusion: Increasing public understanding of the biological correlates of mental illness seems not to result in better social acceptance of persons with mental illness.
No surprise here. Despite increased pushing by pharma, academia and physicians of the biological model of “mental illness,” “no changes or even changes to the worse were observed regarding the attitudes towards people with mental illness. The results of this study correlate with the Auburn University study, which concluded:
In general, the disease view did not improve attitudes, except in terms of blame. It did, however, tend to provoke harsher behavior. In contrast, the psychosocial view induced treatment no different from that toward normal others. The results provide little support for the claim that regarding the mentally disordered as sick or diseased will promote greater acceptance and more favorable treatment.
Now, I ask myself, why would anybody think that labeling someone as sick and diseased (a stigmatizing label to begin with) would improve other people’s tolerance of the mentally ill? It would improve drug sales, though. (Just a thought.) What would improve people’s tolerance of the mentally ill are effective non-drug therapies that allow individuals to thrive and take their rightful place in society – the quicker the better. This amazingly simple idea seems to have eluded many people who claim they are helping the mentally ill. Many jobs depend on having a steady, long term supply of mentally ill clients. Lack of effective therapies and over-reliance of drug therapies will ensure that a large population of the mentally ill will continue be be stigmatized.