Language and stigmatization of individuals with mental health problems or substance addiction in the Netherlands: An experimental vignette study

T. F. Martinelli*, G. J. Meerkerk, G. E. Nagelhout, E. P. M. Brouwers, J. van Weeghel, G. Rabbers, H. van de Mheen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Persons with mental health problems and/or substance addictions (MHPSA) are stigmatised more than persons with physical conditions. This includes stigmatisation by care professionals. Stigma is considered one of the most important barriers for recovery from these conditions. There is an ongoing debate that use of language can exacerbate or diminish stigmatisation. Therefore, we conducted an experiment examining how four different ways of referring to a person with (a) alcohol addiction, (b) drug addiction, (c) depression and (d) schizophrenia are related to stigmatising attitudes by care professionals in the Netherlands. We partially replicated two studies performed in the United States and used surveys with vignettes containing either ‘disorder‐first’, ‘person‐first’, ‘victim’ and ‘recovery’ language, which were randomly assigned to participants (n = 361). No significant differences between language conditions were found for any of the vignettes. Our findings suggest that subtle differences in language to refer to persons with mental health problems or substance addictions have no effect on stigmatising attitudes by care professionals in the Netherlands. However, more research is needed to determine the effect of language use on other groups, such as individuals with MHPSA.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020

Keywords

  • experiment
  • language
  • mental health
  • professionals
  • stigma
  • substance addiction

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