Self-Compassion as a Protective Factor Against Mental Illness Self-Stigma
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Self-stigma, the internalization of public stigma, is a significant hindrance to help-seeking and treatment adherence for mental illness. Stigma reduction strategies have thus far focused on mitigating the negative impact of self-stigma by bolstering self-esteem. However, self-esteem is resistant to change and direct attempts to boost self-esteem have been suggested to foster narcissism and unhealthy attachment to positive self-image. Alternatively, self-compassion has been demonstrated to offer similar benefits as self-esteem with fewer downsides. More importantly, self-compassion can be improved with short interventions. Study One is a mixed method study that examined how self-compassion, and the different facets of self-compassion, related to mental health stigma and help-seeking attitude and intentions. Study One compared self-compassion and self-esteem as predictors of self-stigma related to having a mental illness (SSMI) and self-stigma of seeking help for mental illness (SSOSH). Regression analyses showed that self-compassion uniquely predicted both forms of self-stigma and explained more of the variances in both SSMI and SSOSH than self-esteem in a sample of undergraduate students (N = 185). Findings also suggest that the self-kindness aspect of self-compassion may be more protective against SSMI, whereas common humanity is particularly relevant for SSOSH and help-seeking. The qualitative component of Study One revealed both interpersonal and intrapersonal themes in participants perception and experience of SSOSH. Study Two explored the potential of a brief one-time intervention to improve self-stigma and help-seeking attitude and intentions in a separate sample of undergraduate students (N = 133). Study Two also found evidence that self-efficacy and perceived self-competence, two factors positively related to self-compassion, may deter professional help-seeking. Findings of the present set of studies indicate that self-compassion is a promising target for intervention to reduce both forms of self-stigma identified as barriers to mental health recovery.