Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Exploration of the Lived Experience of Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness among Members in an Intentional Non-clinical Therapeutic Community
by Semerod, Mary Elizabeth, Ph.D., Widener University, 2019, 689; 27835775
Abstract (Summary)

The Mental Health Recovery Movement generated powerful changes in the mental health system’s policies, structure, and service delivery for persons living with serious and persistent mental illness. Reforms resulted in the development of recovery-oriented, person-centered, and person-directed programming that supported a view of recovery as a highly subjective process. Despite these improvements, research indicated that stereotypes, stigmatizing attitudes, and discriminatory actions surrounding mental illness continued to create a potential barrier for individual access to treatment and community resources, as well as a powerful hindrance to positive self-esteem and self-efficacy. For decades, extensive studies were conducted related to the impact of public and self-stigma on the psychological well-being of individuals living with mental illness, but little attention was given to the personal experience of stigma among persons in community-based mental health programs. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to address this concern and explore the complex topic of stigma from the perspectives of adults living with serious mental illness. The study sample included 18 individuals recruited from four recovery-oriented, psychosocial, community-based settings known as Clubhouse (CH) programs. CH programs are therapeutic, non-clinical, strengths-based communities that are focused on social and vocational skill-building and supports, transitional training, and employment opportunities (McKay, Nugent, Johnsen, Eaton, & Lidz, 2018). This study utilized a convergent, embedded strategy to conduct two participant interviews to collect quantitative and qualitative data for analysis. Guided by a grounded theory approach, the investigative and interpretative research process included an exploration of (a) stigma experiences in multiple community settings and social interactions, (b) factors that contributed to these experiences, (c) impact of an awareness of stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors on social interactions, (d) discussion of stigma within the CH community, and (e) impact of stigma on MH recovery. The findings reinforced the value of practitioners’ awareness of the persistent and powerful presence of stigma in everyday life, including intersectional and structural stigma, and how acceptance related to living with mental illness inspired and empowered individuals to confront stigmatization and cope. These results enhanced understanding of MH recovery as the foundation for acceptance which served as a barrier to stigma.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kauffman, Stephen E, Houser, Linda D
Commitee: Achenbach, Gerald, Stein, Eric S, Barol, Beth I, Wyatt, Jeannette B
School: Widener University
Department: Social Work
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 81/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social work, Social research, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Acceptance, Clubhouse programs, Mental health, Psychiatric rehabilitation, Public and self-stigma, Recovery
Publication Number: 27835775
ISBN: 9798617024939
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