First Advisor

Janice Haaken

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Community psychology, Psychiatric diagnosis, Discrimination, Mental illness -- Public opinion, Mental illness -- Social aspects, Stigma (Social psychology)



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 265 pages)


Stigma has been described as the most significant obstacle to quality of life for individuals with major psychiatric diagnoses (Sartorious, 1998). Much of the psychological literature on stigma focuses on individual attributes and interactions at the micro level, rather than macro level dynamics. In critiquing this traditional focus, Link and Phelan (2001) present a model in which stigma ensues when labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination co-occur in a situation of power imbalance. Even as the model fills a gap in conceptualizing stigma, its emphasis on power is unidirectional and fails to account for power as a form of resistance to stigmatization. This study explores the question of how a consumer/survivor activist perspective can inform the Link and Phelan model of stigma. A semi-structured interview methodology was used to gather qualitative data on the perspectives of 10 activists who are both the targets of stigma and active change agents in resisting stigma. The content of the interviews was thematically analyzed based on an iterative coding approach in order to identify the points of overlap with and divergence from the Link and Phelan model. The results of the study support the applicability of the model for psychiatric stigma. The participants' experiences illustrate which aspects of stigmatization take precedence in this context, indicating significant points for intervention. The anti-stigma work discussed by the participants illustrates the power of grassroots resistance, expanding the understanding of power presented in the model. Emergent discursive themes include the importance of similarity, the rejection of negative portrayals of mental illness, and a focus on a shared continuum of human experience. Participants' emphasis on the importance of having their voices silenced was a particularly recurring motif. Several respondents challenge the premises of the Link and Phelan model. These participants emphasize the positive aspects of diagnosis and labeling, while several other participants reject the choice of the term stigma because it may obscure the structural aspects of discrimination. These findings can serve as a guideline for designing future interventions, and focusing on strategies for social change.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


Portland State University. Dept. of Psychology

Persistent Identifier