Comparing Japanese International College Students' and U.S. College Students' Mental-Health-Related Stigmatizing Attitudes

Article excerpt

This study examined differences between Japanese international college students and U.S. college students on stigma toward people with psychological disorders, stigma tolerance in help seeking, and self-concealment. Japanese international students had greater stigma toward individuals with psychological disorders than did their U.S. counterparts. No interrelationships between these variables, however, were found in the Japanese international student group.

Este estudio examino las diferencias entre estudiantes universitarios internacionales japoneses y estudiantes universitarios estadounidenses en Io concerniente al estigma hacia las personas con trastornos psicologicos, la tolerancia del estigma al buscar ayuda y la auto-ocultacion. Los estudiantes internacionales japoneses mostraron un mayor estigma hacia los individuos con trastornos psicologicos que sus homologos estadounidenses. Sin embargo, no se encontro ninguna interrelacion entre estas variables en el grupo de estudiantes internacionales japoneses.


According to the Institute of International Education (2006), there were more than 564,000 international college students studying in the United States in 2005-2006, and Japanese international students (N = more than 38,000) constituted the fourth largest international student group. (Note. In this article, all references to international students refer to international students studying at a college or university in the United States.) Within the multicultural context of the United States, rates of use of psychological services among international students on U.S. college and university campuses are lower than those among native students and, thus, are of great concern (e.g., Frey & Roysircar, 2006; Yi, Giseala, & Kishimoto, 2003; Zhang & Dixon, 2001). Japanese international students come from a culture in which the use of and unfavorable attitudes toward professional psychological care are documented (e.g., Fukuhara, 1986; Yeh, Inose, Kobori, & Chang, 2001).

variables related to treatment seeking

In the United States, researchers and psychological professionals have identified psychosocial variables related to the underuse of psychological services. One such variable is stigmatizing attitudes toward psychological disorders. The U.S. Surgeon General's report on mental health stated that stigma serves as an obstacle that hinders people from using mental health care services (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). Stigma, in this context, maybe defined as a multidimensional negative attitude toward a group of people who are construed to be lacking appropriate skills or abilities. As a result, individuals who are stigmatized are viewed as incompetent, unpredictable, or threatening (Kurzban & Leary, 2001). Studies have shown that the general public tends to have stigmatizing attitudes toward psychological disorders and individuals who have them (Crisp, Gelder, Rix, Meltzer, & Rowlands, 2000). These stigmatizing attitudes are even greater if these individuals are known to have sought professional psychological services (Ben-Porath, 2002).

Another set of variables known to be related to treatment seeking are attitudes toward seeking professional psychological services. Evidence suggests that individuals who have less favorable help-seeking attitudes tend to have greater stigmatizing attitudes toward people with psychological disorders (e.g., Leong & Zachar, 1999).

Stigma toward individuals with psychological disorders may extend to negative self-evaluation regarding personal experiences with psychological distress. A variable that may capture this type of negative self-evaluation (e.g., self-stigma) is self-concealment. Self-concealment is the tendency to hide distressing and potentially embarrassing personal information (Larson & Chastain, 1990). Studies have shown that self-concealment is positively associated with psychological distress (Cramer, 1999) and with negative attitudes toward seeking professional psychological services (Cepeda-Benito & Short, 1998; Kelly & Achter, 1995). …