The differential effectiveness of psychosocial and biogenetic causal explanations in reducing negative attitudes toward "mental illness"

Ian Walker, John Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Given the apparent failure of the "mental illness is an illness like any other" approach to reducing negative stereotypes of people with mental health problems, the differential effects of biogenetic and psychosocial explanations of psychiatric symptoms were evaluated. Attitude measures were administered to 126 young New Zealand adults before and after a video portraying a young man with psychotic symptoms followed by either biogenetic or psychosocial explanations. Consistent with previous studies, the "medical model" approach significantly increased perceptions of dangerousness and unpredictability. Following the psychosocial explanation there was a slight but statistically insignificant improvement in attitudes. Participants who knew users of psychiatric services, or who had used services themselves, had more positive attitudes than other participants. It is recommended that destigmatization programs minimize efforts to persuade the public that mental health problems are biogenetic illnesses, and focus instead on increasing exposure to users of mental health services. Further research is required to determine whether such exposure should include life histories, so as to highlight the psychosocial causes of mental health problems. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-325
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes
Volume65 Win
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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Mental Health
Psychiatry
Dangerous Behavior
Mental Health Services
New Zealand
Public Health
Research

Cite this

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AB - Given the apparent failure of the "mental illness is an illness like any other" approach to reducing negative stereotypes of people with mental health problems, the differential effects of biogenetic and psychosocial explanations of psychiatric symptoms were evaluated. Attitude measures were administered to 126 young New Zealand adults before and after a video portraying a young man with psychotic symptoms followed by either biogenetic or psychosocial explanations. Consistent with previous studies, the "medical model" approach significantly increased perceptions of dangerousness and unpredictability. Following the psychosocial explanation there was a slight but statistically insignificant improvement in attitudes. Participants who knew users of psychiatric services, or who had used services themselves, had more positive attitudes than other participants. It is recommended that destigmatization programs minimize efforts to persuade the public that mental health problems are biogenetic illnesses, and focus instead on increasing exposure to users of mental health services. Further research is required to determine whether such exposure should include life histories, so as to highlight the psychosocial causes of mental health problems. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved).

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