Self-Stigmatization and Ageism Amongst Older People Accessing Mental Health Services
The aim of this novel piece of research was to explore experiences of self-stigma amongst a group of older people (aged 65+) currently using mental health services. In order to try and identify possible contributing factors to internalized stigma it was also decided to gather information on optimism and a baseline measure of distress. These scores were all compared with the individual’s likeliness to continue to use the mental health services as it was hypothesized that higher levels of self-stigma would be linked with a lower likelihood to continue to use services. Fourteen participants (age range 65-92) from three different geographical areas agreed to take part having been approached by a mental health professional known to them. Interviews were then arranged directly with each participant, with each interview being made up of three questionnaire measures to rate levels of distress, optimism and experiences of mental health stigma, a Likelihood to Continue to Use Services rating scale, and a repertory grid. The repertory grids had been specifically designed to explore the construct systems of the participants in relation to their age. The main finding was that experiences of mental health stigma were minimal, but that participants showed some signs of internalizing ageist attitudes. However, neither of these variables was correlated with a likelihood to continue to use services, suggesting that it is factors other than mental health stigma and age stigma and selfstigmatization that impact on an older person’s decision to continue to engage with mental health services or not. The small sample size also meant that power was lacking from the findings, indicating that further research needs to be carried out. This study has opened up a research area which needs further ongoing investigation in order to fully explore the clinical implications of self-stigma in relation to age and mental health problems. Areas of potential future research are offered and briefly explored.