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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Deinstitutionalization, Social Rejection, and the Self-Esteem of Former Mental Patients
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Modified labeling theorists have long argued that the stigma of mental illness has important consequences for the lives of people with mental illness. We propose that social rejection is an enduring force in the lives of people with mental illness and that these experiences are central to understanding the poor self-concepts described by many former psychiatric patients. We explore changes in a cohort of recently deinstitutionalized mental patients' (N = 88) self-esteem and experiences with social rejection using data from a three wave panel survey conducted while institutionalized and over a two-year period following the patients' discharge from a long-term state hospital. Our results indicate that social rejection is a persistent source of social stress for the discharged patients. Moreover, these experiences increase feelings of self-deprecation that, in turn, weaken their sense of mastery. Where the patients' received their follow-up care-whether in a community setting or in another state hospital-had little impact on their self-related feelings or on their experiences of social rejection. Our results provide further support for modified labeling theory and underscore the need to consider the dynamic relationship between stigmatizing experiences and self-related changes. (Authors)