Skip to main content
Experiences of Familial Stigma among Individuals Living with Mental Illnesses: A Meta‐Synthesis of Qualitative Literature from High‐Income Countries
Journal-of-Psychiatric-and-Mental-Health-Nursing (2022)
  • Joseph Adu, Western University
  • Abe Oudshoorn, Western University
  • Kelly Anderson, Western University
  • Carrie Anne Marshall
  • Heather Stuart
Introduction: Familial mental illness stigma is a pervasive issue but very subtle in high-income countries. Familial mental illness stigma implies persons living with mental illnesses are discriminated against by their family members or close relatives.
Aim/Question: This meta-synthesis explored the experiences of familial stigma among individuals living with mental illnesses in high-income countries, focusing on empirical literature, to understand the breadth of current literature and ways to reduce this form of stigma.
Method: We conducted a meta-synthesis through a structured search of qualitative data from six electronic databases (Sociological Abstract, CINAHL, Medline, PsycINFO, Google Scholar, and Embase). Inclusion criteria comprised: empirical primary research, primary technique for data collection is qualitative, studies published in a peer-reviewed journal in the English language between 2000 to 2020, studies reported on experiences of familial mental illness stigma, and studies conducted in high-income countries. The exclusion criteria were: all grey literature, studies not written in English and non peer-reviewed, studies not focused on familial mental illness stigma, quantitative peer-reviewed articles on the related concept, and peer-reviewed articles on the related topic before the year 2000.
Results: The study identified only 28 peer-reviewed articles on the topic within two decades. Concealment of familial stigma was found to be detrimental due to the potential for alienation within one’s home environment.  Disclosure and social contact within the family system were considered as critical interventions to provide some safety-nets for individuals with mental illnesses.
Discussion and implications for practice: The paucity of studies over the review period highlights the need for further attention to support optimal environments for persons living with mental illnesses.  Families’ understanding of the difficulties of mental illness stigma is vital to supporting the development of policies and interventions towards the avoidance of social exclusion within societies. Families should make concerted efforts to reduce stigma, and this includes within the family system. Education and training approaches around mental illness-related stigma should involve individuals with lived experience and their families, as well as service providers and the general public.
  • familial stigma,
  • associative stigma,
  • mental illness,
  • discrimination,
  • psychiatric disorders
Publication Date
Summer August 31, 2022
Citation Information
Adu, J., Oudshoorn, A., Anderson, K., Marshall, C. A., & Stuart, H. (2022). Experiences of Familial Stigma among Individuals Living with Mental Illnesses: A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Literature from High-Income Countries. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.
Creative Commons license
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY International License.