Examining the Burden of Public Stigma Associated with Mental Illness in the Rural United States


Stigma is a widely recognized barrier to receipt of health and mental health services. This policy brief documents the burden of public stigma associated with any mental illness in rural versus non-rural communities in the United States. Differences in stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs by rurality, gender, race and ethnicity, and age are examined.

Findings suggest that rural respondents held no more negative attitudes towards individuals with mental illness than non-rural respondents. Female respondents held more positive attitudes on items related to recovery and outcomes than male respondents. Racial and ethnic differences were observed related to negative stereotypes held towards individuals with mental illness, across geographic definitions. Older respondents had significantly higher subscale scores on negative stereotypes than younger respondents. While similar population dynamics associated with mental health stigma were observed among rural and non-rural respondents, stigma reduction efforts are especially important in rural communities where there is limited or no access to mental health providers.

Rural Health Equity Research Center
Michael Meit, Kate Beatty, Stephanie Mathis, Justin Kearley, Amy Wahlquist