Abstract

Many individuals with schizophrenia are devalued and discriminated against because of their mental illness. There has been only limited study of how individuals with schizophrenia experience mental illness stigma. We evaluated 74 stable outpatients with schizophrenia receiving community care. Study participants were interviewed with the Consumer Experiences of Stigma Questionnaire (CESQ), the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, and several social functioning measures. On the CESQ, all but one respondent indicated having at least one stigma experience. The most frequently reported CESQ items were respondents' worry about being viewed unfavorably because of their psychiatric illness (70%) and avoidance of telling others about it (58%). Many respondents also indicated having heard offensive statements (55%) and media accounts (43%) about persons with psychiatric disorders. Socioeconomic variables, but not symptoms or social functioning measures, were related to the extent of stigma and discrimination experiences. These results document the extent to which persons with mental illness experience negative reactions from others. Strategies are needed to enhance how persons with schizophrenia cope with stigma.