The Relationship Between Experience With Mental Illness and Stigmatizing Attitudes and Beliefs


This policy brief examines the relationship between self-reported experience with mental illness and public stigma associated with any mental illness in rural and urban communities in the U.S. Data were from a nationally representative survey (AmeriSpeak® Panel), with experience defined as self-reporting personally having a mental illness or knowing someone with a mental illness.

Key Findings:

  • The prevalence of experience with mental illness (whether first-hand or second-hand) was similar among rural and urban respondents, with 81% of both rural and urban respondents reporting experience.
  • Respondents reporting experience with mental illness held fewer negative stereotypes than respondents reporting no experience with mental illness.
  • In order to reduce stigma, interventions should involve individuals who have lived experience with mental illness.
  • Due to the high prevalence of mental illness, there is a need to identify strategies to increase the access to and utilization of behavioral health services for individuals experiencing mental illness, particularly in rural communities where there are long- standing behavioral health workforce shortages.
Rural Health Equity Research Center
Kate Beatty, Stephanie Mathis, Amy Wahlquist, Michael Meit