Masters Thesis

The influence of a mental illness label on desired social distance

This study looked at the influence that a mental illness label has on the amount of social distance desired from a person with a mental illness. Participants were 480 (265 male, 212 female, 1 transgender, and 2 non-binary) individuals over the age of 18 in the United States. Participants answered questionnaires that assessed their willingness to interact with, and their emotional reactions toward, a person described in a vignette. They also completed questionnaires that assessed the participant’s familiarity with mental illness and their tendency to answer questions in socially acceptable ways. Results showed there was a significant difference in desired social distance between individuals labeled with an Anxiety Disorder and individuals labeled with Bipolar Disorder, and between individuals labeled as having Schizophrenia and individuals labeled as having “Mental Illness” and those labeled as having Anxiety. Perceived dangerousness, familiarity with mental illness, and social desirability were all shown to be significant predictors of desired social distance.