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Alex Capshew
Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, February 27, 2006

Not in my medicine cabinet

Majority of Americans say psychiatric medications are effective yet refuse to take them

Feb. 27, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A majority of Americans believe in the effectiveness of psychiatric medications, but most are reluctant to use these drugs for the treatment of their personal problems, according to a report from the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research headquartered at Indiana University.

The report, part of an ongoing series of national studies of mental health stigma, shows that much ground has been gained since the 1950s in public awareness of mental health disorders and their medical nature, yet little change has occurred in the stigma attached to the conditions. Mental health experts fear this discourages Americans from seeking effective treatment for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental health problems.

"Most people believe that mental health problems are amenable to treatment," said IU sociology professor Jack Martin, lead author of the report. "They also agree that psychiatric medications are effective. Yet our survey shows that while Americans are aware of this, most have serious reservations about personally taking these medications."

Key findings include:

  • Approximately two-thirds of Americans reported that using psychiatric medications helps people with mental health problems deal with day-to-day stress, control their symptoms, and improve relationships with members of their family.
  • Individuals who are more likely to have positive attitudes toward the use of psychiatric medications are those who are older or white, or who trust their personal physicians.
  • Almost half (47 percent) of respondents reported that psychiatric medications should be discontinued once symptoms disappear.
  • About 7 of 10 Americans reported trusting their own physician, but 6 of 10 also were skeptical of physicians in general, suspecting them of taking unnecessary risks, charging for unnecessary services, performing unnecessary surgeries and not acting in their patients' best interests.

The data for this report came from the 1998 General Social Survey, a nationally representative face-to-face survey of Americans conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The report reflects responses from about 1,400 people.

The ICMHSR report is the second in a series looking at mental health stigma in America. The first report, issued several years ago, pointed to surprisingly high rejection rates -- the majority of respondents reported they would not want to marry or work in close proximity to someone with a mental health disorder. The rate, roughly 66 percent, was similar to rejection rates reported in the 1950s. The next report to be released will look at Americans' views of mental health problems in children.

The Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research (ICMHSR), founded in 1994, is a multidisciplinary group of researchers from IU campuses and other universities, as well as practitioners, policymakers and advocates. The consortium focuses on the interface of communities and their treatment systems.

The General Social Survey is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, Indiana University and Eli Lilly & Co.

To speak with Martin or ICMHSR Director Bernice Pescosolido, who is also an investigator in this series of reports; or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact Alex Capshew, 812-855-6256 or The full report can be viewed at