Reducing Stigma Toward Schizophrenia: An Investigation into what Information is Most Effective at Decreasing Negative Attitudes to Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that manifests psychotic symptoms and largely affects an individual’s day to day functioning (Silva et al., 2017). In addition to the incapacitating symptoms of this disorder, patients with schizophrenia face another central concern: stigma (Stuart, 2016). In light of this, an abundance of previous research has been dedicated to discerning the most effective and feasible methods to reduce stigma towards mental illness (Corrigan, 2001). In particular, a large body of research has suggested that education - or more specifically, educating people about the causes of schizophrenia - may be an effective way to achieve this goal (e.g. Boysen & Vogel, 2008). So far, two causal explanations have dominated the literature; psychosocial causal explanations and biogenetic causal explanations. However, only a small number of experimental studies have directly compared the teaching of these opposing two models on levels of stigma (Lincoln, Arens, Berger, & Rief, 2008; Schlier, Schmick, & Lincoln, 2014; Walker & Read, 2002). The findings from these studies show that the effects of causal explanations on stigma are contradictory, thus highlighting the need for another experiment to discern the actual successfulness of these methods at reducing negative attitudes towards schizophrenia. Additionally, due to the mixed findings in the literature regarding the effectiveness of etiological information at lowering stigma, it seems warranted that further exploration into novel, educational teachings is conducted to establish whether causal information really is the most appropriate educational explanation to enlist if stigma reduction is the end goal. In the current research, two experiments were conducted where participants were provided different explanations for schizophrenia (both causal and non-causal in nature) or no explanation at all. Participants received either a biogenetic causal explanation of schizophrenia, a psychosocial causal explanation of schizophrenia, or a creative explanation for schizophrenia, (Experiment One). Comparatively, in Experiment Two participants were provided either a causal explanation for schizophrenia (biogenetic, psychosocial, epigenetic) or, no information at all. Findings from both experiments suggested there were no significant differences between the levels of prejudice and discrimination of participants who saw information which was causal in nature, and those who did not. Further, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that different causal explanations have varying effects on stigma. Moreover, the previously untested explanations for schizophrenia did not produce stigma reducing effects. Strengths, limitations, implications and future directions are discussed.