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Common Mental Illnesses, Less Likely to Receive Supportive Response

Update Date: Apr 16, 2012 02:31 AM EDT

As definitions of mental illnesses become broader, those with depression and other common mental illnesses are less likely to receive a supportive response from friends and family members as are people who show other severe mental disorders. 

Based on the study of interviews with individuals with more socially-accpeted and commonplace mental illnesses, Brea L. Perry found that those patients did not receive strong reactions to their conditions from family members, friends, or others with whom they came in contact. Their support networks may be less willing to take on caregiver responsibilities or to excuse them when their behavior deviates from what is considered normal,  

"Perhaps because so many people are diagnosed and subsequently treated successfully, signs of depression do not alarm friends and family members to the same degree as disorders known to severely affect functioning," the author stated.

While commonplace mental illnesses are clearly defined by professionals as legitimate medical conditions, Perry found that the public does not always consider them as justifiable grounds for taking on a "sick" role, based on the analysis of interviews with 165 individuals with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression, and other less severe disorders, who were undergoing mental health treatment for the first time.

This study also found that diagnosing someone with a severe mental illness  such as schizophrenia and the manic phase of bipolar disorder can lead to a higher amount of rejection and discrimination by acquaintances and strangers while at the same time creating a stronger social support system among close friends and family.

The author stated, "Day-to-day emotional and instrumental support is likely to play a critical role in recovery from mental illness."

The study was released in a recent issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, published by SAGE. 

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