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Mental Health Support Groups, Stigma, and Self-Esteem: Positive and Negative Implications of Group Identification


  • This research was supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (Res-062-23-0135).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to S. Alex Haslam, School of Psychology, University of Exeter, EX4 4QG, United Kingdom [e-mail:].


Research into the relationship between stigmatization and well-being suggests that identification with a stigmatized group can buffer individuals from the adverse effects of stigma. In part, this is because social identification is hypothesized to provide a basis for social support which increases resistance to stigma and rejection of negative in-group stereotypes. The present research tests this model among individuals with mental health problems. As hypothesized, group identification predicted increased social support, stereotype rejection, and stigma resistance. These self-protective mechanisms were in turn found to predict higher levels of self-esteem. However, the general effect of these associations was to suppress a negative relationship between social identification and self-esteem. This confirms that the positive impact of identification lies in its capacity to provide access to stress-buffering mechanisms but also indicates that the impact of identification with a severely stigmatized group is not necessarily positive. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.