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Keywords:

  • at risk for psychosis;
  • labelling;
  • stigma;
  • ultra-high-risk

Abstract

Aim

The public health benefits of utilizing an ‘at-risk for psychosis’ designation are tempered by concerns about stigma. It is therefore of interest to examine whether symptoms associated with this designation might spontaneously induce labels associated with a psychotic disorder, other non-psychotic disorders or non-psychiatric labels. This pilot study explored the labels associated with characteristics of ‘high risk for psychosis’ and the corresponding stigma level.

Methods

A vignette describing an identical character, followed by a series of questions about stigmatizing attitudes towards the vignette character, was administered in the present investigation.

Results

The results indicated that even though most young people (59%) did not spontaneously label the vignette character with psychotic-like diagnostic labels, the single most frequent label provided was ‘paranoid/a’. When such labelling, that is, strongly tied to psychosis, occurred, respondents exhibited stronger stigmatizing attributions of fear compared to those indicating non-psychiatric labels (e.g. ‘weird’).

Conclusions

These results suggest that the majority of respondents did not endorse diagnostic labels spontaneously, thus signaling that stigma in the majority of cases would not naturalistically be elicited. However, a segment of respondents evidenced stigma simply from behavioural changes manifested by individuals exhibiting signs of psychosis, independent of diagnosis. Implications for reducing any stigma associated with an ‘at-risk for psychosis’ designation are discussed.