Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Matt Bogenshutz

Second Advisor

Andrew Barnes

Third Advisor

Hollee McGinnis

Fourth Advisor

Traci Wike


Despite the proven effectiveness of mental health interventions, services remain limited across the country. Social workers have repeatedly advocated for increased funding, but mental healthcare gaps persist. Disparities could be addressed through the policy process, but critical proposals often do not pass. One of the biggest barriers is the concept of stigma, which could extend into legislatures and influence mental health-related policy outcomes as a form of structural stigma. Factors that influence legislator voting behavior are found in the literature, but studies have not explicitly focused on structural stigma or mental health-specific policy outcomes. Thus, the present study aimed to explore state mental health legislative proposals with goals of exposing forms of structural stigma present in the language and potential effect of the bills as well as identifying and disseminating patterns in mental healthcare policy outcomes. To achieve this aim, quantitative content analysis was conducted on a stratified random sample of bills that were codified into frequencies and examined through multiple logistic regression analyses. The study found that bills were structurally stigmatic in language and potential effect. Male and Republican legislators were more likely to introduce structurally stigmatic mental health bills, while party majority status and structural stigma in the language of the bills predicted mental health bill passage. Mental health advocates can utilize this information to better target policymakers for structural stigma reduction efforts as well as to increase their effectiveness in influencing bill sponsorship or voting behavior.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Included in

Social Work Commons