A number of studies have demonstrated the existence of negative attitudes towards people with mental-health problems and these attitudes can have a detrimental effect on people suffering from a mental illness. There are a number of ways in which people can cope with this stigma but three of the most common ones - secrecy, education, and avoidance/withdrawal - have been shown to be ineffective. A study of 595 clients of rehabilitation centres in Belgium looked at whether social support could protect against the worst effects of stigma. The researchers found that stigma reduced self-esteem whereas peer support increased it. However, for those people who suffered from low self-esteem caused by stigmatization peer support did not have a beneficial effect.
Verhaeghe, Mieke, Bracke, Piet and Bruynooghe, Kevin - Stigmatization and self-esteem of persons in recovery from mental illness: the role of peer support International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2008, 54(3), 206-218