A few years ago, research by noted Indiana University sociologist Bernice Pescosolido found that Americans who struggled with mental illness still encountered stigmatization that could make their lives even more challenging – despite concerted efforts and public health messages to reverse this.
“Prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. aren’t moving,” she said in 2010. “In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. It’s time to stand back and rethink our approach.”
Pescosolido and her colleagues continue to conduct research in this area. Their findings have caught the attention of leaders who appear very interested in rethinking the approach taken to addressing stigma, which can stymie efforts to seek help and can affect such basic needs as housing, employment and relationships.
During this week’s National Conference on Mental Health, hosted by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, findings from Pescosolido’s studies were cited by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and actress Glenn Close. Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind works to address the stigma and discrimination faced by people like her sister and nephew, who is featured in the new “Schizo: the Movie” public service announcement discussed by USA Today. Pescosolido chairs the international advisory council for Bring Change 2 Mind and has had the opportunity to give input into new PSAs. She can be seen in some of the behind-the-scenes videos posted to Bring Change 2 Mind’s YouTube Page.
Monday’s conference at the White House was considered a call by Obama for a national conversation about mental health and the harmful effects of stigma. The conference launched a new website designed to provide information, resources and encouragement for people struggling with mental health issues and for the family, friends and communities also affected.
An HHS Storify includes news stories and social media posts related to the conference and stigma issue. Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. She also is director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.