Since the beginning of time, social stigma has been an issue of humanity. It is no longer new to see news of discrimination against people who are considered different in terms of ethnicity, religious beliefs, and culture. Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something”, stigma is not limited only to the aforementioned gauges because disrespect against and dishonor of persons with mental illnesses is becoming common these days. In fact, “. . .some diagnoses are controversial and there is much concern in the mental health field that people are too often treated according to or described by their label. This can have a profound effect on their quality of life.” (Mental Health Foundation, para. 2)
According to an article by Mayo Clinic entitled Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness, stigma “. . . is a common experience for people who have a mental health condition. Stigma may be obvious and direct, such as someone making a negative remark about your mental illness or your treatment. Or it may be subtle, such as someone assuming you could be unstable, violent or dangerous because you have a mental health condition.” Those with mental health problems also find difficulties in finding work, in forming steady and long-term relationships, in getting decent health insurance coverage, in choosing good housing, among others.
While discrimination is rampant against people with mental health issues, it is highly notable to discover some people and communities to be understanding of the stereotyped. In fact, there are still a lot of human beings that empathize with the feelings and social situations experienced by the discriminated ones. It is, therefore, the objective of this report to find out if there is a significant percentage of people feeling empathy towards those suffering stigma for their mental illnesses. Furthermore, this study aims to see if such empathy affects mental illness stigma on the positive or negative aspect.
The proponent of this study will use well-drafted questionnaires as the main research instrument to collect data from various respondents in Toronto, Canada. With this tool, it will be easy to analyze whether it is just world beliefs or empathy that highly influences mental illness stigma. The questionnaires include demographics (age, sex, ethnicity, etc.), the Toronto Empathy scale, the Just World Beliefs (Others) scale, and the AQ-27 (to measure stigma) scale. The AQ-27 is “a 27-item, self-administered measure of stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs toward people with mental illness . . . The AQ-27 is sensitive to changes in public stigma toward mental illness following anti-stigma interventions, and has been used successfully in diverse adult samples, including healthcare students and professionals.” (https://www.mededportal.org/publication/9532)
With all these highly reliable instruments, it will be absolutely trouble-free to identify the reasons of empathy and the logic for the lack of it (in the cases of other participants). The questionnaires are also categorized into two kinds: the severe and the mild. This is done in order to evaluate the level of empathy felt by a person towards a person with a minor mental health problem over the one with a severe case.
The results of this study will help researchers, professors, students, and other concerned parties understand how to deal with mental illness stigma. Aside from that, the outcome will provide better input on one of the least studied aspects of psychology—how ordinary people respond to other individuals’ mental health circumstances.
Stigma. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved from
What are Mental Health Problems? (n.d.). Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved from
Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from
Daniel J. Fridberg, PhD. September 12, 2013. Critical Synthesis Package: Attribution
Questionnaire-Short Form (AQ-27). MedEdPORTAL. Retrieved from