In any given year, one in four adults experience a diagnosable mental health disorder. Research indicates that these individuals are more likely to struggle with unemployment, lower income, diminished self-image, lower self-esteem, and have fewer social supports. According to modified labeling theory, this creates a nearly unavoidable fate of social isolation as these individuals are more likely to withdraw, thus diminishing their sense of community, overall well-being, and quality of life. However, research suggests that a sense of community can help reduce isolation, protect from psychiatric relapses, and increase self-esteem. Additionally, reducing internalized stigma may help to minimize the overall negative impacts associated with mental illness. Consequently, a qualitative study was conducted examining the effects of perceived stigma and societal discrimination on those with a mental illness and how social supports and a sense of community belonging moderate those effects. In addition to a thorough review of the literature, this capstone paper will report a qualitative study’s methods, findings/outcomes, and limitations; but will also include future considerations for additional research about the stigma surrounding mental health.
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