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Open AccessFeature PaperPerspective

Mental Health Related Stigma as a ‘Wicked Problem’: The Need to Address Stigma and Consider the Consequences

Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF, UK
Personal Social Services Research Unit, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(6), 1158;
Received: 11 April 2018 / Revised: 17 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 2 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mental Health and Social Care and Social Interventions)
Recent reviews on the evidence base for mental health related stigma reduction show that under certain conditions interpersonal contact is effective in promoting more positive attitudes, reduced desire for social distance, and increased stigma related knowledge (knowledge which disconfirms beliefs based on stereotypes). Short-term interventions may have effects that are attenuated over time; longer term programmes may support sustained improvements, but research following up long-term interventions is scarce. However, the effectiveness of these interventions should not obscure the nature of stigma as a social problem. In this article we describe stigma as a ‘wicked problem’ to highlight some implications for intervening against stigma and evaluating these efforts. These include the risks of unintended consequences and the need to continually reformulate the concept of stigma, to ensure that tackling stigma at the structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal levels become part of the core business of stakeholder organisations. We compare the main targets of anti-stigma programmes with what is known about the sources of stigma and discrimination and their impacts to identify targets for future intervention. In some cases, interventions have been directed at the interpersonal level when structural level intervention is also needed; in others, systematic reviews have not so far identified any interventions. View Full-Text
Keywords: stigma; discrimination; intergroup contact; wicked problems stigma; discrimination; intergroup contact; wicked problems
MDPI and ACS Style

Henderson, C.; Gronholm, P.C. Mental Health Related Stigma as a ‘Wicked Problem’: The Need to Address Stigma and Consider the Consequences. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1158.

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