Public Stigma Toward Housing Applicants With Psychiatric Disabilities

The current research investigated the effects of a psychiatric disability (PD) and treatment support services on housing discrimination. Mental health research has identified stable and supportive housing as an important aspect in recovery from psychiatric disabilities. Public policies and programs have been created to offer people with PD resources and treatment support to help people obtain and maintain housing of their choice. Support services offered through these programs vary from psychiatric care to more intense “wraparound” services in which multiple service providers collaborate to provide care to clients. Despite these supportive efforts, research demonstrates that public stigma towards people with psychiatric disabilities continues to act as a barrier to gaining access to adequate and affordable housing. It is important to determine the process by which this stigma occurs and if housing discrimination is influenced by knowledge that an applicant participates in support programs.

Two studies were conducted. The first study evaluated discrimination towards a housing applicant with a PD and the extent to which that discrimination depended on the amount of support the applicant receives. Support was manipulated in 3 conditions: No Support, Psychiatric Care, and Psychiatric Care with Wraparound Services. Participants evaluated two rental applications, one of which contained the manipulation and one that operated as a control that was constant across conditions. For applicants with a PD, the “No Support” condition did not evidence any support, the “Psychiatric Care” condition explained that the applicant was under the care of a psychiatrist, and the “Psychiatric Care with Wraparound” condition explained that the applicant received several, integrated support services in addition to being under the care of a psychiatrist. The second study extended the first by examining the impact of support services on housing discrimination against people with two specific disorders: schizophrenia (SZ) and major depressive disorder (MDD). Based on evidence from related research into public stigma of PD and employment assistance programs for underrepresented groups (i.e., Affirmative Action programs), we predicted that awareness of support services provided to a person with PD may have unintended negative consequences for public acceptance and assistance. It may be that the receipt of support services makes an individual’s functional impairment seem more extreme, thus, reducing the likelihood that a person would rent an apartment to him/her. Consistent with the Stereotype Content Model (SCM), perceptions of competence and warmth were evaluated to determine their possible mediating effects of treatment support on housing discrimination against applicants with PD. This research has both theoretical and real-world implications in that it sheds light on the process by which public stigma occurs and how receptive the public is to housing and support services for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Publication Date: 
San Diego State University Press
United States