Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Randolph C. Arnau

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Bradley A. Green

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Christopher T. Barry

Committee Member 3 Department



The stigma associated with mental illness is pervasive and detrimental. The aim of the current study was to assess individual characteristics that may be positively and negatively associated with the stigmatization of mental illness. Two-hundred fifty-nine undergraduate students from the University of Southern Mississippi completed measures of the Big Five personality traits (i.e., Agreeableness, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience), Dark Triad personality traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy), selected character strengths (i.e., Open-mindedness, Perspective, Bravery, Integrity, Kindness, Social Intelligence, Fairness, Forgiveness and Mercy, and Hope), Empathy, and Familiarity with mental illness. Participants also completed measures of stigmatizing attitudes (i.e., perceived dangerousness, personal responsibility attributed, and desired social distance) associated with targets described in vignettes as having a mood disorder (i.e., Major Depressive Disorder), a personality disorder (i.e., Borderline Personality Disorder), a psychotic disorder (i.e., Schizophrenia), and a chronic medical illness (i.e., Leukemia). Results suggest higher order factors of stigmatization that encompass the different attitudes assessed for each condition and a higher order factor for stigmatization of mental illness that includes stigma of each mental illness assessed. Empathy, Narcissism, and Fairness were found to be related to the stigmatization of mental illness. Additionally, stigma levels, specific stigmatizing attitudes, and individual characteristics associated with stigmatizing attitudes were found to differ based on disorder assessed. Implications and future directions are discussed.