Applying research

June 18, 2013

There is a lot of talk these days about applied or “translational” research, meaning, mainly, research that makes the transition out of the laboratory into the “real world”, research that results in some new drug or therapy or treatment, some groundbreaking technology. It’s sometimes harder to see research at work outside the drug therapy or technology fields, but in a recent blog post, IU media relations specialist and Health & Vitality blogger Tracy James notes how the research of IU Bloomington Distinguished Professor of Sociology Bernice Pescosolido is being applied to help mitigate our nation’s stigma against people with mental illness. James writes:

During this week’s National Conference on Mental Health, hosted by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, findings from Pescosolido’s studies were cited by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and actress Glenn Close. Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind works to address the stigma and discrimination faced by people like her sister and nephew, who is featured in the new “Schizo: the Movie” public service announcement discussed by USA Today. Pescosolido chairs the international advisory council for Bring Change 2 Mind and has had the opportunity to give input into new PSAs.

In an international study recently published in a special issue of the American Journal of Public Health this spring, Pescosolido and her co-authors  found that despite widespread acceptance that mental illness is a disease that can be effectively treated, a common “backbone” of prejudice persists. Even in countries with cultures more accepting of mental illness, the “backbone” of stigma was detected, related to issues such as caring for children, marriage, and holding roles of authority or civic responsibility. The stigma was even stronger toward people with schizophrenia.

“The stereotype of all people with mental illness as ‘not able’ is just wrong. No data supports this,” says Pescosolido, who is a professor in the IU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Sociology. “With the prevalence of mental health problems being so high, no individuals or families will go untouched by these issues. They need to understand that recovery is not only possible but has been documented.”

Pescosolido has spent much of her scholarly career applying her research findings to try to reduce the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental illness. Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind organization and the U.S. government’s recent efforts to encourage national awareness and dialogue about mental illness and mental health are bringing new and welcome visibility to her work. Visit this page for more information on Pescosolido, who is also director of the Indiana Consortium on Mental Health Services Research. Watch the video below to see the recent “Schizo: the Movie” PSA; Pescosolido appears (lower left) in the behind-the-scenes thank you following the PSA.

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