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Results of a new IU study show people are becoming more accepting of those suffering from mental illness, specifically depression. 

The study tracked people’s perception of the illness over time and recently showed a big drop in stigma for the disorder. 

“I think this is one of the things we’ve been working on for a long time and it’s probably the first time we’ve seen something where the news is good,” said IU Distinguished Sociology Professor and lead author for the study Bernice Pescosolido. 

The study gave people scenarios and gauged their reactions. They checked to see if people could identify the mental illnesses and then how they would respond. 

The study tracked people’s reactions over a 25-year period from 1996 to again in 2006 and most recently in 2018. 

“While we’re just seeing it for depression now, we hope that we can begin to document this as we continue to do these national stigma studies that we see that this kind of acceptance really follows for other disorders that people face when they have mental health problems.” 

The first change they saw was people being more understanding of what mental illness was. Then most recently they saw people becoming more accepting of depression and more willing to include people suffering from the disorder. 

“They are willing to include them in their everyday life. And that’s a big part of the stigma, is really the isolation and the loneliness of people finding out that you have a particular disease or disorder and then saying I don’t want anything to do with you.” 

Some examples of inclusion were people being more willing to interact with someone suffering from depression socially, being ok with having them as neighbors and being more willing to work with them on a job. 

Pescosolido says that inclusion is important to help people get better.  

“If we just focus on the individual and even on their families, but we send them out to a culture that is cruel and rejecting, we’re really not doing them any favors.” 

One of the things the authors credit to this improvement in acceptance is a cultural shift and changes in society.