Do Empathy and Group Norms Predict Mental Health Stigma in Adolescents?

  • C. Silke
  • C. Heary
  • L. Swords


Background: The main aim of this study is to examine whether Empathy and Group Norms contribute to the expression of explicit and implicit mental health stigma in adolescents. Stigma was conceptualised as involving cognitive, emotional and behavioural aspects. Method: 256 secondary school students (108 males, 148 females) from within the Republic of Ireland were recruited to this study. All participants were aged between 15-18 years. Participants were asked to read two vignettes and to respond to a series of questions that assessed their beliefs, attitudes and behavioural intentions toward each vignette character. One vignette depicted a peer with depression while the other vignette described a ‘typically developing’ peer. Participants also completed measures assessing their dispositional trait of empathy and perceptions of group norms. Implicit attitudes were assessed using the Implicit Association Test. Results: Results were analysed using Multiple Linear Regression. It was found that Group Norms significantly predicted aspects of explicit stigma. Discussion: There is evidence to suggest that Group Norms may be an important factor to target in future stigma-reduction programs.
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