In this paper, we report the findings of a qualitative study that, aims to understand the family members’ subjective experiences with perceived stigma of mental illness. The theoretical standpoint and the research method for the study employed are social constructivist theory and narrative inquiry respectively. We conducted semi-structured and in-depth interviews with family members and others accompanying patients to an outpatient unit of a psychiatric clinic. The professionals and the administrative staff at the clinic gave additional interviews. The constant comparative method was employed for the analysis of the narratives. The findings suggest the existence of perceived and direct stigma among family members. Family members shared their concerns relating to the disclosure of illness, its receptions, its interpretation by others, and the possible impact of the disclosure on the family. Professionals and staff at the clinic shared their perceptions regarding the manifestations of perceived stigma among families. In this study, we gathered an emic understanding of family stigma in the context of West Bengal, India. The findings are discussed in the context of current literature on stigma in India.


stigma, mental illness, family members, social constructivism, narrative inquiry

Author Bio(s)

Bidisha Banerjee is currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences Pilani K K Birla Goa Campus, India. She has completed her PhD in Psychology from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 2015, and MPhil in Social Sciences from Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai, India. The author's research interest lies in Social Psychology, mental health and health promotion, Qualitative and mixed methods research. Please direct correspondence to bidishab@goa.bits-pilani.ac.in.

Shikha Dixit is currently working as a Professor of Psychology at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India. Her research interests include: Qualitative and quantitative research in health and mental health, social cognition, organisational cognition, and gender.


We want to acknowledge the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India for proving required infrastructure for completion of the PhD thesis. Also, our sincere gratitude to the reviewers who provided valuable comments and suggestions for the betterment of the manuscript.

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