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Understanding the stigma of mental illness in employment


Background: Stigma has been identified as an important barrier to the full community participation of people with mental illness. This study focuses on how stigma operates specifically within the domain of employment.

Objectives: The purpose was to advance the development of theory related to the stigma of mental illness in employment to serve as a guiding framework for intervention approaches.

Method: The study used a constructivist grounded theory methodology to analyze over 500 Canadian documents from a diverse range of sources and stakeholders, and interviews with 19 key informants.

Findings: The paper develops several key components central to the processes of stigma in the work context. These include the consequences of stigma, the assumptions underlying the expressions of stigma, and the salience of these assumptions, both to the people holding them and to the specific employment situation. Assumptions are represented as varying in intensity. Finally specific influences that perpetuate these assumptions are presented.

Implications: The model suggests specific areas of focus to be considered in developing intervention strategies to reduce the negative effects of stigma at work.