Making Sense of the Public Stigma of Suicide: Factor Analyses of Its Stereotypes, Prejudices, and Discriminations

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Abstract

Background: Research suggests that stigma is a barrier to care for individuals who have attempted suicide. While extensive work has examined the stigma of mental illness, less research has focused on the public stigma of suicide. Existing measures of suicide stigma have lacked a conceptual foundation or have failed to include the perspectives of suicide stakeholders. Aims: This research draws on previous qualitative research with suicide stakeholders to create a measure of public suicide stigma. Method: This study used a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to define a factor structure for suicide stigma. The CBPR team used focus groups to generate items for each component of stigma (stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination). Two online surveys (N = 372; N = 243) asked members of the public to rate candidate items for stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Results: Analyses revealed three factors for stereotypes (weak, crazy, distressed), two factors for prejudice (fear/distrust, anger), and three for discrimination (avoidance, disdain, coercion). Limitations: Results should be confirmed in other samples and further evidence gathered on convergent, divergent, and discriminant validity. Conclusion: The resulting 44-item Suicide Stigma Assessment Scale (SSAS) can be further validated and used to measure efficacy of stigma change interventions.

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