Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sonia Zimmerman


Mentally Ill Persons--psychology; Quality of Life; Self Concept


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the impacts of self-stigma on everyday occupations of persons with serious and persistent mental illness. Greater understanding of the impacts of self-stigma is important to development of occupation-based interventions used by occupational therapists in mental health settings.

Methodology: A qualitative phenomenological approach was utilized to interview six participants between the ages of 31-58 years old with severe and persistent mental illness. High level in vivo coding was used to interpret participant responses.

Results: Four themes emerged from participant interviews: 1) negative impact on self, 2) coping with negative social encounters, 3) positive contributions to one’s sense of self, and 4) acceptance of diagnosis and acknowledged need for medication. Self-stigma is experienced as changes in sense of self with the greatest impact shortly after the initial diagnosis of the mental illness; with time and external supports, the individual learns to accept and cope with the diagnosis, resulting in decreased self-stigma and increased occupational engagement.

Conclusion: Based on the results of the study, OTs are encouraged to provide interventions early in the course of the illness to counteract the negative impacts of self-esteem and self-efficacy associated with self-stigma on occupational engagement. Research findings could be used to develop a screening tool to determine the presence of self-stigma of clients receiving mental health OT services and guide intervention planning.