An analogue study of stigma, help -seeking attitudes, and symptom severity in postpartum depression

Christine Dias-Vieira, University of Rhode Island


The primary goal of the present study was to test the effect of presenting young adults with educational information that was designed to decrease stigma and increase the favorability of attitudes toward seeking treatment for postpartum depression. The effect of information and symptom severity on ratings of stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking were investigated through the use of a 2 X 2 factorial design. Approximately 500 undergraduate students recruited from various classes at the University of Rhode Island were randomly assigned to receive information about pregnancy or postpartum depression. They were also assigned to read a vignette about a target who exhibited either high or low symptom severity. Participants were subsequently asked to fill out questionnaires that were designed to measure stigmatizing attitudes toward PPD, mental illness, and the target in the vignette. Participants' help-seeking attitudes were also assessed. ^ Several interesting and important findings emerged from the current research. In what I view as the study's most important finding, receiving information about postpartum depression decreased the stigmatization of a target individual with this disorder. Receiving information about PPD also lessened participants' stigmatization of mental illness more generally. Students who received information about postpartum depression were more likely than those who did not receive this information, to view a target with PPD as a good person, and as someone that they could understand. ^ While the findings that relate to changing people's stigmatizing attitudes were encouraging, the results that relate to help-seeking were not as positive. Receiving information about PPD did not result in more positive attitudes toward seeking mental health treatment. ^ One of the study's other main hypotheses had to do with the effect of symptom severity on help-seeking attitudes and stigmatizing beliefs about postpartum depression. As hypothesized, individuals who read a story about a target exhibiting a high level of symptom severity endorsed more stigmatizing attitudes toward that person than individuals who were assigned to the low symptom severity condition. However, much like the informational brochure, symptom severity did not have a significant effect on participants' attitudes toward help-seeking. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Christine Dias-Vieira, "An analogue study of stigma, help -seeking attitudes, and symptom severity in postpartum depression" (2005). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3206248.