Social network, recovery attitudes and internal stigma among those with serious mental illness [2017]

Social network size and strength is an important determinant of overall health.

This study describes the extent and strength of the social network among a sample of individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and explores the relationship between an individual’s social network and their experience of internal stigma and recovery attitudes.

Over a 2-year period, consecutive new patients with SMI attending two community mental health clinics were recruited and interviewed using a comprehensive battery of assessments including assessment of internalized stigma, recovery attitudes and symptom severity.

Among the 271 patients interviewed, social network size was small across all diagnostic categories. In adjusted results, the number of friends and support from relatives and friends was significantly related to the personal confidence and hope recovery attitude (p < .05). The number of relatives and friends and support from relatives was significantly related to internalized stigma (p < .05). Frequency of contact with relatives or friends was not related to either recovery factors or internalized stigma.

There is a significant positive relationship between the size and perceived strength of an individual’s social network and internalized stigma and some recovery attitudes. Clinical programs that address any of these factors could potentially improve outcomes for this population.

Bernadette AM Cullen, Ramin Mojtabai, Elahe Bordbar, Anita Everett, Katie L Nugent, William W Eaton

International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol 63, Issue 5, 2017