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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Personal stigma and use of mental health services among people with depression in a general population in Finland

Esa Aromaa1*, Asko Tolvanen2, Jyrki Tuulari3 and Kristian Wahlbeck4

Author Affiliations

1 Vaasa Hospital District and National Institute for Health and Welfare, Psychiatric Unit of Vaasa Central Hospital, Sarjakatu 2, Vaasa, FI- 65320, Finland

2 Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014, Finland

3 South-Ostrobothnia Hospital District, Psychiatric Clinic of Lapua, Sairaalantie 9, FI-62100 Lapua, Finland

4 National Institute for Health and Welfare, Psychiatric Unit of Vaasa Central Hospital, Sarjakatu 2, Vaasa, FI- 65320, Finland

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BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:52  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-52

Published: 31 March 2011



A minority of people suffering from depression seek professional help for themselves. Stigmatizing attitudes are assumed to be one of the major barriers to help seeking but there is only limited evidence of this in large general population data sets. The aim of this study was to analyze the associations between mental health attitude statements and depression and their links to actual use of mental health services among those with depression.


We used a large cross-sectional data set from a Finnish population survey (N = 5160). Attitudes were measured by scales which measured the belief that people with depression are responsible for their illness and their recovery and attitudes towards antidepressants. Desire for social distance was measured by a scale and depression with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Short Form (CIDI-SF) instrument. Use of mental health services was measured by self-report.


On the social discrimination scale, people with depression showed more social tolerance towards people with mental problems. They also carried more positive views about antidepressants. Among those with depression, users of mental health services, as compared to non-users, carried less desire for social distance to people with mental health problems and more positive views about the effects of antidepressants. More severe depression predicted more active use of services.


Although stronger discriminative intentions can reduce the use of mental health services, this does not necessarily prevent professional service use if depression is serious and views about antidepressant medication are realistic.