Ingroup perception and responses to stigma among persons with mental illness


Nicolas Rüsch, Joint Research Programs in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Illinois Institute of Technology, 3424 S State Street, Chicago IL 60616, USA.


Objective:  Mental illness stigma is common, but it is unclear why it affects some individuals more than others. We tested the hypothesis that the way persons with mental illness perceive their ingroup (people with mental illness) in terms of group value, group identification and entitativity (perception of the ingroup as a coherent unit) shapes their reaction to stigma.

Method:  Ingroup perceptions, perceived legitimacy of discrimination and reactions to stigma (educating or helping others, social performance, secrecy, social distance, hopelessness) were assessed among 85 people with mental illness using questionnaires and a standardized role-play test.

Results:  Controlling for depression and perceived discrimination, high group value and low perceived legitimacy of discrimination predicted positive reactions to stigma. High group identification and entitativity predicted positive reactions only in the context of high group value or low perceived legitimacy of discrimination.

Conclusion:  Group value and perceived legitimacy of discrimination may be useful targets to help people with mental illness to better cope with stigma.