Patient and Health Care Professional Perspectives on Stigma in Integrated Behavioral Health: Barriers and Recommendations

Sean M. Phelan, Manisha Salinas, Tyson Pankey, Gabrielle Cummings, Jay Sheree P. Allen, Anne Waniger, Nathaniel E. Miller, Jocelyn Lebow, John F. Dovidio, Michelle van Ryn, Chyke A. Doubeni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE Stigma related to mental health is well documented and a major barrier to using mental and physical health care. Integrated behavioral health (IBH) in primary care, in which behavioral/mental health care services are located within a primary care setting, may reduce the experience of stigma. The purpose of this study was to assess the opinions of patients and health care professionals about mental illness stigma as a barrier to engagement with IBH and to gain insight into strategies to reduce stigma, encourage discussion of mental health, and increase uptake of IBH care. METHODS We conducted semistructured interviews with 16 patients referred to IBH in a prior year and 15 health care professionals (12 primary care physicians and 3 psycholo-gists). Interviews were transcribed and inductively coded separately by 2 coders for common themes and subthemes under the topic headings of barriers, facilitators, and recommendations. RESULTS We identified 10 converging themes from interviews with patients and the health care professionals, representing important complementary perspectives, with respect to barriers, facilitators, and recommendations. Barriers included professionals, families, and the public as sources of stigma, as well as self-stigma or avoidance, or internalizing nega-tive stereotypes. Facilitators and recommendations included normalizing discussion of mental health and mental health care–seeking action, using patient-centered and empathetic communication strategies, sharing by health care professionals of their own experiences, and tailoring the discussion of mental health to patients’ preferred understanding. CONCLUSIONS Health care professionals can help reduce perceptions of stigma by having conversations with patients that normalize mental health discussion, use patient-centered communication, promote professional self-disclosure, and are tailored to patients’ preferred understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S56-S60
JournalAnnals of family medicine
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • attitude of health personnel
  • barriers
  • communication
  • health services accessibility
  • integrated behavioral health
  • mental health
  • mental health services delivery
  • patient acceptance of health care
  • patient-centered care
  • physician-patient relations
  • primary care
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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