Murray State Theses and Dissertations


More than half of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime (CDC, 2021), yet stigma towards mental health affects both patients and providers. Although programs exist to address stigma, improve cultural competency among providers, and educate families on the importance of support, facilities are often limited on programs they provide due to allocation of resources and funds. Without a shift in treatment and programing, stigma will continue to impact patient care and outcome.

This study explored stigma among mental health providers in rural communities, while exploring potential differences in treatment among patients due to race. Mental health care providers completed a semi-structured interview based on relevant literature about mental illness, resources for patients and demographics of patients. This interview was followed by additional measures assessing stigma and proximity to mental illness.

Results from this study indicated that a provider’s exposure or proximity to mental health, is not a protective factor against stigma. Furthermore, providers endorsed a general irritation and impatience towards patients, which may suggest provider burnout. Regarding the qualitative data from the semi-structured interview, findings suggest provider knowledge of mental health stigma, as well as common biases in diagnosing.

These findings may help us further understand the relationship between stigma and mental health providers which could provide incentive to redesign treatment for mental health patients, incorporating specific programs to target stigma and cultural humility while providing support for both patient and provider.

Keywords: mental health, stigma, rural, cultural competency

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

mental health, stigma, rural, cultural competency

Thesis Advisor

Sean Rife

Committee Chair

Sean Rife

Committee Member

Esther Malm

Committee Member

Laura Liljequist

Committee Member

Brittany Wood

Document Type