Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Public Conceptions of Mental Illness in 1950 and 1996: What Is Mental Illness and Is It to be Feared?

Jo C. Phelan, Bruce G. Link, Ann Stueve and Bernice A. Pescosolido
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 188-207
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2676305
Page Count: 20
  • Download ($14.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
Public Conceptions of Mental Illness in 1950 and 1996: What Is Mental Illness and Is It to be Feared?
Preview not available

Abstract

In the 1950s, the public defined mental illness in much narrower and more extreme terms than did psychiatry, and fearful and rejecting attitudes toward people with mental illnesses were common. Several indicators suggest that definitions of mental illness may have broadened and that rejection and negative stereotypes may have decreased since that time. However, lack of comparable data over time prevents us from drawing firm conclusions on these questions. To address this problem, the Mental Health Module of the 1996 General Social Survey repeated a question regarding the meaning of mental illness that was first asked of a nationally representative sample in 1950. A comparison of 1950 and 1996 results shows that conceptions of mental illness have broadened somewhat over this time period to include a greater proportion of non-psychotic disorders, but that perceptions that mentally ill people are violent or frightening substantially increased, rather than decreased. This increase was limited to respondents who viewed mental illness in terms of psychosis. Among such respondents, the proportion who described a mentally ill person as being violent increased by nearly 2 1/2 times between 1950 and 1996. We discuss the possibility that there has been a real move toward acceptance of many forms of mental illness as something that can happen to one of "us," but that people with psychosis remain a "them " who are more feared than they were half a century ago.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
188
    188
  • Thumbnail: Page 
189
    189
  • Thumbnail: Page 
190
    190
  • Thumbnail: Page 
191
    191
  • Thumbnail: Page 
192
    192
  • Thumbnail: Page 
193
    193
  • Thumbnail: Page 
194
    194
  • Thumbnail: Page 
195
    195
  • Thumbnail: Page 
196
    196
  • Thumbnail: Page 
197
    197
  • Thumbnail: Page 
198
    198
  • Thumbnail: Page 
199
    199
  • Thumbnail: Page 
200
    200
  • Thumbnail: Page 
201
    201
  • Thumbnail: Page 
202
    202
  • Thumbnail: Page 
203
    203
  • Thumbnail: Page 
204
    204
  • Thumbnail: Page 
205
    205
  • Thumbnail: Page 
206
    206
  • Thumbnail: Page 
207
    207