This study tests the effect of pharmaceutical Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) for antidepressants on perceived stigma surrounding mental disorders. We randomly assigned participants into one of three experimental conditions: antidepressant DTCA with portrayals of discrimination, cognitive separation, and stereotyping (DCSS), antidepressant DTCA without these representations, or a no-exposure control. Contrary to study hypotheses, participants who viewed ads containing portrayals of DCSS were significantly less likely to want to socially distance themselves from those with mental illnesses than those assigned to the no-exposure control condition, even when controlling for demographics and personal experience with mental illness. We discuss plausible explanations for the unexpected pattern of effects and resulting implications for future research on the topic.

Nicolette Rainone, Reshma Oodal, Jeff Niederdeppe
Community Mental Health Journal, April 2018, Volume 54, Issue 3