Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Saunders, Stephen

Second Advisor

Wierzbicki, Michael

Third Advisor

Hoelzle, James


Despite significant gains in the research base and effectiveness of psychotherapy, only thirty to forty percent of individuals experiencing mental illness symptoms seek treatment. A large barrier preventing many individuals from seeking psychotherapy is the stigma that surrounds mental illness. This study reviews the current state of mental illness stigma literature and presents a new Treatment Seeking Barriers Model (TSBM) that attempts to better explain the connection between stigma and treatment seeking. The goal of the current study was to isolate and manipulate responsibility or immutability beliefs related to depression in order to evaluate their relationship with treatment seeking stigma. These beliefs are primary barriers to treatment seeking in the TSBM. Public service announcements (PSAs) trying to increase or decrease beliefs of responsibility or immutability were created. Undergraduate students were randomly assigned to view one of the PSAs, and completed measures of stigma beliefs and attitudes before and after video exposure. Immutability beliefs were effectively decreased, while responsibility beliefs did not change. Furthermore, immutability belief change was significantly predictive of change in treatment seeking attitudes. Immutability beliefs may be a key target for future anti-stigma campaigns, given their sensitivity to brief PSAs observed in this study, as well as their predictive relationship with treatment seeking attitude change.