Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach

Authors


Dr John Read, Psychology Department, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand.
E-mail: j.read@auckland.ac.nz

Abstract

Objective:  Many anti-stigma programmes use the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach. This review evaluates the effectiveness of this approach in relation to schizophrenia.

Method:  The academic literature was searched, via PsycINFO and MEDLINE, to identify peer-reviewed studies addressing whether public espousal of a biogenetic paradigm has increased over time, and whether biogenetic causal beliefs and diagnostic labelling are associated with less negative attitudes.

Results:  The public, internationally, continues to prefer psychosocial to biogenetic explanations and treatments for schizophrenia. Biogenetic causal theories and diagnostic labelling as ‘illness’, are both positively related to perceptions of dangerousness and unpredictability, and to fear and desire for social distance.

Conclusion:  An evidence-based approach to reducing discrimination would seek a range of alternatives to the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach, based on enhanced understanding, from multi-disciplinary research, of the causes of prejudice.

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