The self-esteem of some people with serious psychiatric disorders may be hurt by internalizing stereotypes about mental illness. A progressive model of self-stigma yields four stages leading to diminished self-esteem and hope: being aware of associated stereotypes, agreeing with them, applying the stereotypes to one's self, and suffering lower self-esteem. We expect to find associations between proximal stages - awareness and agreement - to be greater than between more distal stages: awareness and harm. The model was tested on 85 people with schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses who completed measures representing the four stages of self-stigma, another independently-developed instrument representing self-stigma, proxies of harm (lowered self-esteem and hopelessness), and depression. These measures were also repeated at 6-month follow-up. Results were mixed but some evidence supported the progressive nature of self-stigma. Most importantly, separate stages of the progressive model were significantly associated with lowered self-esteem and hope. Implications of the model for stigma change are discussed.
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