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Family members’ experiences of courtesy stigma associated with mental illness

Wada Gaolaolwe
Eva Manyedi
Maserapelo Serapelwane


Background: The stigma of mental illness has been in existence from medieval times to date and it is extended to families of people  diagnosed with mental illness. Families with a member diagnosed with a mental illness experience courtesy stigma of mental illness and  it affects the quality of their lives.

Aim: This study aimed to explore and describe the experiences of courtesy stigma of families with a member diagnosed with a mental  illness in Lobatse, Botswana.

Setting: The study was conducted at a psychiatric hospital in Lobatse, Botswana.

Methods: A qualitative  contextual phenomenological design was used for this study. The population comprised of members from families with a person  diagnosed with a mental illness and the sample size was 15 participants. Semi-structured in-depth individual interviews were conducted  telephonically.

Results: The study yielded three main themes and related subthemes. The themes were: families’ experiences of received  stigma, families’ experiences of stigma by association, and families’ experiences of internal stigma.

Conclusion: Families with a member  diagnosed with mental illness experience received stigma, associated stigma and internal stigma. The families experienced that they  received dehumanising labels from the public because of their association with their mentally ill family members.

Contribution: With the  insights gained from the findings of this study, programmes can be developed that raise awareness on stigma of mental illness and to  promote support of families of people diagnosed with a mental illness. 

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848