Stigma resistance and well-being in the context of the mental illness identity.


Stigma resistance and well-being in the context of the mental illness identity.


Marcussen K; Gallagher M; Ritter C


Journal of Health and Social Behavior




We use a perceptual control model of identity to examine the relationship between stigmatized appraisals (from self and other) and well-being among individuals with serious mental illness. We also examine the role of stigma resistance strategies in the identity process. Using in-depth interviews with active clients of a community mental health center (N = 156), we find that deflection, or distancing oneself from mental illness, is associated with greater self-esteem and fewer depressive symptoms. Challenging others through education is associated with higher self-esteem, and challenging stigma through activism is associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Activism also moderates the relationship between identity discrepancy (the difference between appraisals from self and other) and well-being; however, the extent to which activism is helpful or harmful depends on whether appraisals from others are more or less stigmatizing than self-views. We discuss the implications of these findings for identity and stigma research.


The negative impacts of stigma for individuals with mental illness are widespread and well documented. In various forms, stigma has been shown to compromise self-esteem and mastery (e.g., Drapalski et al. 2013; Livingston and Boyd 2010; Marcussen, Ritter, and Munetz 2010; Ritsher and Phelan 2004; Rosenfield 1997), social functioning (Yanos, Roe, and Lysaker 2010), and subjective quality of life (Livingston and Boyd 2010; Marcussen et al. 2010; Marcussen and Ritter 2016; Rosenfield 1997). Stigma is also negatively associated with health-related behaviors such as treatment seeking and compliance, in part due to its damaging impact on self-evaluation (Corrigan and Watson 2002). A central focus of stigma research is identifying how negative perceptions associated with deviant behaviors or statuses become self-relevant and subsequently harmful.


Journal Article

NEOMED College

NEOMED College of Medicine

NEOMED Department

Department of Psychiatry

Update Year & Number

Jan to Aug list 2021


Marcussen K; Gallagher M; Ritter C, “Stigma resistance and well-being in the context of the mental illness identity.,” NEOMED Bibliography Database, accessed August 19, 2022,

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