RAND study looks at stigma from a cultural perspective

A recent RAND study surveyed individuals of various racial and ethnic groups across California and asked about their willingness to interact with people experiencing mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), capturing one important aspect of stigma.  The results of the study suggest that some racial and ethnic groups may be more hesitant to seek help when experiencing mental distress given the level of stigma in their respective communities. The study also strongly supports targeted stigma reduction efforts, such as culturally tailored messages or outreach activities for example.

randstigma_tableThe three interactions asked about included participants’ willingness to “move next to”, “spend an evening socializing with”, or “work closely on a job with” someone with a mental health condition.

While results varied slightly across the interactions studied, White Americans in California were the least stigmatizing of people with mental illness, Latinos and African Americans showed slightly more stigmatizing, and Asian Americans show the highest level of stigmatizing attitudes. Some key findings include:

  • All Racial/Ethnic Groups
    • Differences across groups were small when asked about socializing with someone experiencing symptoms of depression or schizophrenia but varied in the context of PTSD
    • All groups showed higher negative responses to schizophrenia
  • African Americans and Latinos most closely resembled the low stigmatizing responses of Whites yet, there were significant differences depending on the interaction
  • Asian Americans on average had greater unwillingness to interact with individuals with depression and PTSD compared to other racial/ethnic groups
    • No differences in level of stigma found for Asian-Americans speaking different languages
  • Latinos scored lowest compared to other groups on unwillingness to work closely with someone experiencing symptoms of mental health illness. With regards to acculturation:
    • Spanish speaking Latinos were much less willing than English speaking Latinos to socialize with someone experiencing symptoms of PTSD
    • Twice as many English-speaking Latinos than Spanish-speaking Latinos were unwilling to work closely with someone with symptoms of schizophrenia
  • White Americans were the least stigmatizing overall and express less hesitancy about moving next door to someone with PTSD and depression than other groups

To learn more about what San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) is doing to reduce stigma among our diverse communities, visit our website at www.smchealth.org/ode. Find out how you can get involved and help reduce stigma with our Health Equity Initiatives

And finally, take the pledge to end stigma online and learn more about San Mateo County’s Be The One (anti-stigma) campaign.


Written by Nixi Cruz-Sanchez, Former Intern, Office of Diversity and Equity

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