Experiences of self-stigmatization and parenting in Chinese mothers with severe mental illness

Sonia Ying Yin Chan, Grace W.K. Ho, Daniel Bressington

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health stigma has serious ramifications on people with a severe mental illness (SMI). Stigma damages self-esteem, recovery outcomes, family relationships, socialization abilities, access to housing, and career prospects. The cultural tendencies of Chinese people have been shown to be associated with particularly high levels of stigmatization. These cultural tenets can result in high levels of self-stigma due to experiencing shame and a perceived need to keep mental illness a secret. Although there is a lack of existing evidence, it is possible that such experiences present unique challenges to Chinese mothers diagnosed with SMI when they parent their children. Therefore, this qualitative study explored the experiences of parenting and self-stigmatization of Chinese mothers with SMI. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 mothers who were direct carers of their children aged under 18 and who were receiving community-based care in Hong Kong. Manual inductive thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview data. Three main themes related to self-stigmatization emerged from the interviews: (i) distancing and being distanced; (ii) doubting myself; and (iii) struggling for control. The experiences of self-stigmatization appeared to damage these mothers’ self-efficacy, which may negatively affect their parenting self-esteem, tendency to seek professional help, and ability to manage their own mental health. Strategies to improve self-efficacy, including psychoeducation, and additional childcare support/resources are required for mothers with SMI so they can better manage and balance the demands of motherhood and their mental healthcare needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-537
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • mental health
  • mental illness
  • mothers
  • parenting
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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