Both continuum beliefs (i.e., that mental disorder exists on a spectrum of normative behavior patterns) and the perception of similarities to a person with schizophrenia have shown mixed effects on reducing mental illness stigma. To our knowledge, this is the first study to address continuum beliefs and the perception of similarities to a person with depression in the context of depression-related stigma.
This work is based on an online intervention study in an ethnically diverse sample recruited on Amazon MTurk including previously unanalyzed qualitive responses. Within this cross-sectional, mixed-methods online investigation (N = 304), we examined the relation of perceived similarities to continuum beliefs, social distance, and negative stereotypes in relation to a vignette about depression. A randomly assigned continuum beliefs intervention attempted to induce continuum beliefs about depression. An open-writing task asked participants to describe similarities and/or differences between themselves and the person depicted in the vignette.
The continuum beliefs intervention was associated to a greater number of perceived similarities to and fewer perceived differences from the target vignette. Moreover, perceived similarities were associated with increased continuum beliefs, less social distance, and less-negative stereotypes. Perceived differences from a person with depression were associated with increased social distance.
Even though the continuum beliefs intervention did not significantly alter stigma measures directly, expressed continuum beliefs were associated to decreased mental illness stigma.
The findings emphasize that perceived similarities to an outgroup member (i.e., a person with depression) might augment the stigma-reducing mechanism of continuum beliefs.

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