Seeking to understand : the conceptualisation and impact of attitudinal beliefs about mental health within a lay population
Prior research has outlined the presence of stigmatising opinions towards people experiencing psychological distress within the general population in UK society. These stigmatising opinions may result in the discrimination of a person in receipt of psychological services. Previous research has highlighted the adverse effect that stigmatising beliefs may have on a person experiencing psychological distress in terms of social exclusion, increased symptomatology and lowered self-esteem. To date, attempts to document the contributing factors to such attitudes have been largely speculative.;The aim of this study was to gain insight into how members of the general population conceptualised their attitudes towards mental health, and identify factors that they perceived to be influential in the development of these attitudes. In particular, the role of the family in this process was considered to be of importance. The present study focused on the accounts of family dyads, one generation apart, to aim to develop this understanding further.;Using grounded theory methodology, transcripts of interviews with seven participants were analysed and a model was developed to represent the process of developing an understanding about mental health. This model was characterised by the fluid core category of 'Seeking to Understand' and demonstrated a process of evaluation of a 'mentally ill' person.;The core category and six main categories are discussed in relation to the literature. A review of the methodology and reflections on the research process are provided. It is suggested that clinicians should consider the influence of client's beliefs about mental health prior to beginning therapy. The implications of considering family, clinical training and wider societal systems are also considered.