It Gets Better with Time: The Perception of Stigma Among Older Adults with Chronic Physical Illness and in Recovery from Mental Health Condition

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stigma, perception, older adults, mental health condition, co-occurring disorders

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Older adults are a vulnerable population who are more susceptible to developing mental health conditions, and the symptoms are often exacerbated by the co-occurrence of various physical health complications. Despite available evidence-based interventions, many older adults neglect to utilize mental health services, due to the stigmatization of mental health conditions. Limited research has focused on the unique experiences of older adults who have overcome the adverse effects of stigma, have sought help for their mental health condition and are currently in recovery. There are even fewer studies that have addressed perceptions of stigma among older adults in recovery from a mental health condition who are currently living with a chronic physical illness. The present study investigated the unique experiences of seeking professional mental health services and the perceptions of stigma among nine older adults living with a chronic physical illness and currently in recovery from a mental health condition utilizing semi-structured interviews. Through an in-depth thematic analysis of the data, four over-arching themes were identified: Resilience from the Stigma of a Mental Illness, Community Engagement, Cultural Barriers and Social Support System. Findings from the current study suggest that older adults who have previously experienced a mental health condition and were able to overcome the stigma of their condition, were more likely to seek professional help. Additionally, engaging in community engagement programs to help other older adults who are currently experiencing acute mental health conditions seemed to reduce perceptions of stigma and positively impacted participants self-esteem and overall outlook on life.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

American Journal of Undergraduate Research, v. 15, issue 4, p. 79-90