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Stigma towards people with mental illness in the Nordic countries – a scoping review

posted on 05.08.2022, 16:21 authored by Lone Hellström, Katrine Gren Voldby, Lene Falgaard Eplov

Stigma affects people with mental illness globally, however, it is proposed that stigma is less prevalent in wealthier countries and that people hold more positive attitudes in Northern and Western Europe. Even so, accounts from surveys in Denmark and Sweden reveal that stigma is very much prevalent.

This scoping review aims to shed light on the body of literature regarding mental-health-related stigma in the Nordic Countries and identify knowledge gaps.

We searched four electronic databases in December 2017 and again in June 2020. All types of empirical studies (qualitative, quantitative, and mix-methods) examining the stigma of people with mental illness were included.

In total, 61 studies were included. Overall, findings from the Nordic countries resemble global findings. Studies are primarily descriptive, and mostly survey studies of attitudes toward people with mental illness in the general population. Few studies focus on discrimination, and those who do, measure intended behavior in hypothetical situations rather than actual acts of discrimination in real-life situations. Studies were mostly conducted on a community or organizational level; no studies were identified on a system level. Experienced stigma and discrimination by patients, but also relatives, were a focus in one-third of the studies. Very few studies of interventions to reduce stigma and discrimination were identified.

More studies into stigma on a system or institutional level are needed. Ways to measure acts of discrimination should be invented. Furthermore, interventions to reduce stigma and discrimination should be developed, targeting all levels of society.