The Paradox of Self-Stigma and Mental Illness
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2006
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice
Volume 9, Issue 1, pages 35–53, March 2002
How to Cite
Corrigan, P. W. and Watson, A. C. (2002), The Paradox of Self-Stigma and Mental Illness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9: 35–53. doi: 10.1093/clipsy.9.1.35
- Issue published online: 11 MAY 2006
- Article first published online: 11 MAY 2006
- Received January 10, 2001; revised June 12, 2001; accepted June 20, 2001.
- mental illness;
Published narratives by persons with serious mental illness eloquently describe the harmful effects of stigma on self-esteem and self-efficacy. However, a more careful review of the research literature suggests a paradox; namely, personal reactions to the stigma of mental illness may result in significant loss in self-esteem for some, while others are energized by prejudice and express righteous anger. Added to this complexity is a third group: persons who neither lose self-esteem nor become righteously angry at stigma, instead seemingly ignoring the effects of public prejudice altogether. This article draws on research from social psychologists on self-stigma in other minority groups to explain this apparent paradox. We describe a situational model of the personal response to mental illness stigma based on the collective representations that are primed in that situation, the person's perception of the legitimacy of stigma in the situation, and the person's identification with the larger group of individuals with mental illness. Implications for a research program on the personal response to mental illness stigma are discussed.