Stereotypes of Mental Illness in

, 2009). To the extent that these young people are perceived in terms of stereotypical views by clinicians will likely be the extent to which the therapeutic relationship will be adversely affected. In this regard, Villaneuva and her associates conclude that, “Myths and stereotypes about mental illness that can create personal biases and lead to discrimination. Such stereotypical views together with long-standing beliefs about mental illness can affect the nurse-patient relationship and ultimately influence the care that patients receive” (p. 221).

In response to this potential for stereotypical perceptions influencing clinicians treatment of adolescents with mental disorders, a growing number of programs across the country have been launched in recent years to educate the public and healthcare professionals concerning stereotypes about mental illness in general and among young people in particular. Popular stereotypes about mental illness, though, can be powerful forces that are not easily changed. For example, a study by Hinkelman and Granello (2003) found that, “Media portrayals of individuals with mental illness often include psychotic killers or violent individuals who sustain little or no basis in reality. People often use slang words such as crazy, psycho, or schizo to refer to others whose behavior deviates somewhat from an expected norm” (p. 259). Further, misinformation with regards to mental illness only contributes to these stereotypes, and the need for a more informed framework among healthcare professionals that takes into account the stereotypes and prejudices that may otherwise influence their treatment of these young people. In this regard, Hinkelman and Granello add that, “The climate for acceptance of people with mental illness has been an area of ongoing advocacy for mental health professionals” (p. 260). These researchers identified a number of gender-related factors that influence stereotypical perceptions about the mentally ill, such as (a) female college students had less restrictive and more benevolent attitudes toward people with mental illness than their male peers and (b) female students had more positive attitudes toward seeking psychological services than male students (Hinkelman & Granello, 2003).

These findings may health counselors identify important disruptions in the social and family support used for treating young people with mental health issues, because family members in particular who hold stereotypical views will fail to contribute to the support in ways that promote positive outcomes. Based on their findings, these researchers speculate that, “It is possible that individuals with rigid gender-role adherence may have limited abilities to offer social or familial support to persons with mental illness, and interactions between these persons may, in fact, be detrimental to the functioning of the person with the illness,” making this an important treatment consideration for healthcare professionals (Hinkelman & Granello, 2003, p. 260).


Hinkelman, L. & Granello, DH (2003). Biological sex, adherence to traditional gender roles, and attitudes toward persons with mental illness: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 25(4), 259-261.

Overton, S.L. & Medina, S.L. (2008). The stigma of mental illness. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86(2), 143-144.

Villanueva, C.S., Scott, S.H., Guzzetta, C.E. & Foster, B. (2009). Development and psychometric testing.

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