Honor and the stigma of mental healthcare

From Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin


Mental illness is associated in many cultures with a variety of negative stereotypes, including being dangerous, unpredictable, and weak. Such stereotypes and the discriminatory treatment that can accompany such stereotypes can serve as powerful motivators to deny membership in the category of “the mentally ill” and to avoid utilizing mental health services. This research investigates a socio-cultural influence on the stigmatization of Mental Healthcare (MHC) deriving from the beliefs and values of a culture of honor. The findings of the studies may suggest that increasing the number of MH practitioners could prove to be an especially important avenue for ameliorating the underutilization of MH services that we observed in honor states. Among the many dimensions on which cultures vary is the extent to which a society places defense of reputation at the core of its value system. Cultural stigmatization remains an enormous challenge for policy makers interested in addressing our nation’s mental health needs.


Most prior research on cultures of honor has focused on interpersonal aggression. The present studies examined the novel hypothesis that honor-culture ideology enhances the stigmatization of mental health needs and inhibits the use of mental health services. Study 1 demonstrated that people who strongly endorsed honor-related beliefs and values were especially concerned that seeking help for mental health needs would indicate personal weakness and would harm their reputations. Studies 2 and 3 showed that honor states in the U.S. South and West invested less in mental healthcare resources, compared with non-honor states in the North (Study 2), and that parents living in honor states were less likely than parents in non-honor states to use mental health services on behalf of their children (Study 3). Together, these studies reveal an overlooked consequence of honor ideology for psychological well-being at the individual, social, and institutional levels.

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Article details
Ryan P. Brown, Mikiko Imura, and Lara Mayeux
Honor and the Stigma of Mental Healthcare Pers Soc Psychol Bull 0146167214536741, first published on May 22, 2014 doi:10.1177/0146167214536741



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