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Contextualizing Public Stigma: Endorsed Mental Health Treatment Stigma on College Campuses

Published Article
S. Michael Gaddis, Daniel Ramirez, and Erik L. Hernandez
Social Science & Medicine, 197:183-191
Publication year: 2018


Scholars suggest that public mental health stigma operates at a meso-level and is associated with severity of symptoms, disclosure, self-esteem, and treatment-seeking behavior. However, the operationalization of public stigma nearly always comes from an individual-level generalization of what others believe. Using data from over 60,000 students on 75 U.S. college and university campuses between 2009 and 2015, we contextualize public stigma by creating a school-level measure of students’ individual-level endorsed mental health treatment stigma. We present multilevel logistic regression models for 21 different dependent variables. We find that even after controlling for individual-level stigma scores, school-level stigma is negatively associated with self-reports of suicidal ideation and self-injury, although not associated with screens for depression or anxiety. Moreover, school-level stigma is negatively associated with medication use, counseling and therapy visits, and to a lesser degree, informal support. We suggest that future research should continue to examine the contextual environment of public stigma, while policymakers may be able to implement changes to significantly reduce stigma at this level.


  • Stigma
  • Mental health
  • Higher education
  • Institutional context