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Negative attitudes about mental illness often underlie stigma, which can cause affected persons to deny symptoms; delay treatment; be excluded from employment, housing, or relationships; and interfere with recovery.1 Understanding attitudes toward mental illness at the state level could help target initiatives to reduce stigma, but state-level data are scant. To study such attitudes, CDC analyzed data from the District of Columbia (DC), Puerto Rico, and the 35 states participating in the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) (the most recent data available), which included two questions on attitudes toward mental illness. Most adults (88.6%) agreed with a statement that treatment can help persons with mental illness lead normal lives, but fewer (57.3%) agreed with a statement that people are generally caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness. Responses to these questions differed by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and education level. Although most adults with mental health symptoms (77.6%) agreed that treatment can help persons with mental illness lead normal lives, fewer persons with symptoms (24.6%) believed that people are caring and sympathetic to persons with mental illness. This report provides the first state-specific estimates of these attitudes and provides a baseline for monitoring trends. Initiatives that can educate the public about how to support persons with mental illness and local programs and media support to decrease negative stereotypes of mental illness can reduce barriers for those seeking or receiving treatment for mental illness.2,3
Attitudes Toward Mental Illness—35 States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 2007. JAMA. 2010;304(2):149–152. doi:
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