368 Avoidance Behaviors & Mental Health

Research by Thibodeau, Ryan & Principino, Heather M. (2018)

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S.

Have you ever moved seats because someone made you feel uncomfortable? Researchers wanted to study these behaviors in relation to mental health and medical stigma.

Researchers asked participants to meet a volunteer from a local health organization who would ask questions about their health knowledge. Prior to meeting, participants read a letter from the volunteer. They learned that the volunteer either suffered from Type II Diabetes or Schizophrenia.  They completed measures “to predict what the volunteer would be like” (self-report stigma measures).  

Upon going to the room, the researcher showed participants where the “volunteer” would sit and asked them to choose one of six seats to sit in that were varying distances away. The researcher measured the distance of the seat to the volunteer’s chair.

Results? Participants meeting the volunteer with schizophrenia, rather than diabetes, desired a greater distance, reported more fear and rated the volunteer’s dangerousness and unpredictability higher. These participants sat further away from the volunteer chair. We all engage in varying avoidance behaviors. These may increase when we’re with those with mental health conditions. Let’s inform the public and ourselves about persons with mental health problems. Be sensitive to their needs, reduce stigma, and avoid “shunning!”

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