Monday, July 18, 2011

Research project could help detect stigma

Many people who suffer with mental illness never seek treatment simply because they are scared of what other people will think, said Caroline Mann, a psychology professor.

Mann hopes her current research will help psychologists better grasp and manage the social stigma surrounding mental illness.

Mann, who was a visiting professor of psychology during the 2010-2011 academic year, worked with students to develop a method of detecting prejudice against the mentally ill even when people will not admit to the negative feelings.

She adapted a method that uses a computerized survey to detect a person’s “gut feelings” toward people of different races. In the spring semester, a student helped Mann develop a program that would administer the survey and test for mental illness stigma. During the College’s Summer Research Program, she worked with Julie Dihn Doan ’14 to analyze the data collected from the spring research.

The initial study only included 30 Randolph College students. However, Mann believes the results indicated the survey could actually detect stigma and deserves more study.

Mann was surprised and impressed when she learned that Randolph College had a research program with funding. In addition to grants to pay for research expenses, the Summer Research Program provides stipends for students. “I was going to do research regardless, but I wouldn’t have been able to do research with students,” she said.

Doan traveled with Mann to the University of Tennessee, where they presented some of their findings to a group working to reduce mental illness stigma.

“The Summer Research Program enabled her to gain experience not just with scientific research, but also with public speaking,” Mann said.