An examination of factors associated with stigma towards people with depression: a communication’s perspective




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Stigma towards mental illness is a problem that runs deep in most societies, causing difficulties for the people who are ill, the people related to them, and the community (Papadopoulos, Leavey, & Vincent, 2002). Stigma is one of the most crucial reasons for depressed people to avoid seeking help. Numerous interventions and campaigns for reducing public stigma have been implemented with limited effect on mental health stigma. Previous studies have focused on effectiveness of anti-stigma messages, how they are communicated and on the use of contact strategies to strengthen campaign influence (Jensen, 2017). This study examined how the key elements of the attribution theory— locus of causality, stability, and controllability – contribute to public emotional reaction and discrimination towards people with depression. Other vital variables included the level of perceived stigma, level of contact with stigmatized persons, six dimensions of stigma, communication channels, the access to depression-related resources and demographic factors. Data were gathered through an online survey that was distributed to a random sample recruited from M-Turk (N=533). Results showed negative associations between locus of causality and negative emotions (β = -.38, t = -9.47, p =.000), and discrimination (β = -.10, t = -2.41, p =.02), which means that the more participants believe the situation are responsible for the cause of depression, the more negative emotion and intention of discrimination they held. Among all information channels, Interpersonal Channel was the only significant predictor of discrimination (β = .21, t = 4.29, p =.000). Overall, this study shows that more empathy and more familiarity with depression do not lead to less discrimination. On the contrary, participants believed people with depression were easily controlled by the situation and did not put effort to change it.



Attribution theory, Health communication, Public stigma, Depression, Discrimination

Graduation Month



Master of Science


Department of Journalism and Mass Communications

Major Professor

Nancy W. Muturi