Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2003


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

L. Kathleen Sekula

Committee Member

Patrick W. Corrigan

Committee Member

Richard Zoucha


familiarity with depression, gender, political affiliation, religious affiliation


Major depression is a common, debilitating, and life threatening illness, and its treatment may be hampered by stigma. There have been a limited number of studies that link stigma and help seeking attitudes for depression. The purpose of this descriptive correlational study was to identify the relationship between stigmatizing attitudes and help seeking behavior. Also of interest was the impact of person-level variables that may be associated with a person's desire to seek help. Goffman's Stigma Theory and Weiner's Attribution Theory served as theoretical foundations. Data were collected by questionnaires distributed to patients (N = 117) waiting to be seen in both a suburban primary care facility and an urban public health department in Northeast Ohio. The Attribution Questionnaire was used to measure stigmatizing attributions, emotions, and behaviors in regards to depression, and help seeking attitudes were examined using the Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale. Inferential statistics revealed that certain stigmatizing factors were associated with help seeking. The attribution that people are responsible for being depressed was inversely related to seeking help, and the emotional response of pity was positively correlated. Some stigmatizing factors - dangerousness, fear, avoidance, coercion, segregation, and anger - were not significantly associated with help seeking for depression. As expected, there was a statistically significant difference between female and male responses to help seeking, and between Caucasians and non-Caucasians. Females and Caucasians more likely to endorse help seeking, though this result may have been influenced by the greater proportion of males in the non-Caucasian sample. No significance was found among the person-level variables of political or religious liberalism, nor familiarity with depression.

Help seeking for depression may be enhanced if people believe that the illness is not under personal control, that is, that depression is an illness like any other. This study demonstrates the continued significance of the stigmatization of depression and identifies specific populations, such as males and non-Caucasians, who are at greater risk for underdiagnosis and undertreatment.