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Mental illness stigma leads many to hide their condition, study says

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Photo by johnbogeman2 via Flickr Creative Commons

A new RAND study of Californians who have experienced psychological distress finds most would rather conceal their condition than face what they say are high levels of discrimination and prejudice.  

More than two-thirds of those RAND surveyed say the stigma associated with mental illness would cause them to hide a mental health condition from co-workers and classmates. And more than one in three polled say they'd withhold such information from family members.

RAND developed and conducted the survey to assist the California Mental Health Services Administration (CalMSHA) in creating programs to improve the state's residents' mental well-being.  More than 1,000 Californians with some level of psychological distress were polled.

The study found nine out of 10 experienced discrimination, from family, friends, co-workers, health providers or law enforcement. It also found one in five surveyed might delay treatment for mental illness out of fear of someone finding out about their problem. 

Still, about 70 percent of those surveyed said despite having a mental illness, they’re satisfied with life. They also said they believe recovery from mental illness is possible, and nearly all surveyed say they would be willing to seek treatment, if needed.