On ‘Clear and Present Danger’: The Influence of Firearm Legislation on College Student Perceptions of Mental Illness and Treatment-Seeking Intentions
Mental illness (MI) stigma is considered a primary barrier to seeking and remaining in treatment. Mental health experts argue that directly targeting persons with MI in an effort to reduce gun violence may increase public stigma via further associating MI with dangerousness and increasing public preferences for social distance. The present study experimentally investigated whether firearm laws targeting persons with MI who are considered to be a ‘clear and present danger’ to themselves and others can increase MI stigma (i.e., dangerousness, social distance) and ultimately decrease treatment-seeking intentions among college students. Examining mental health reporting practices imposed by such laws poses important questions about their influence on whether people are less likely to seek necessary treatments pending personal distress. The empirical evidence from a variety of research studies largely does not support the effectiveness of these laws. The current study differs from previous research by directly exposing participants to how these reporting provisions impact limits to confidentiality in the therapy process to determine whether they influence differences in treatment-seeking intentions and MI stigma. Additionally, this study examined whether perceived dangerousness and preference for social distance mediate the relationships between exposure to these reporting provisions and treatment-seeking intention. Two-hundred and twenty-nine undergraduate students were randomly-assigned by gender to read a therapy consent form containing clear and present danger reporting laws (CPD) or a standard therapy consent without these laws (control). Participants then completed measures of treatment-seeking intentions, perceived dangerousness, and preference for social distance. Contrary to hypotheses, perceived dangerousness, preference for social distance, and treatment-seeking intentions did not differ between the CPD and control conditions. Furthermore, dangerousness and social distance did not mediate the relationship between CPD conditions and intention to seek treatment. Findings do not support concerns that firearm laws directly targeting MI populations may increase stigma and decrease treatment-seeking intentions. Implications for MI populations, future research, and CPD laws are discussed.
Table of Contents
Overview -- Review of the literature -- Methodology -- Results -- Discussion -- Appendix A. Standard Psychotherapy Consent Form -- Appendix B. Clear and Present Danger Psychotherapy Consent Form -- Appendix C. Consent Form Quiz -- Appendix D. Intentions to Seek Counseling Inventory -- Appendix E. Dangerousness Scale -- Appendix F. Social Distance Scale -- Appendix G. General Help-Seeking Questionnaire -- Appendix H. Manipulation Check -- Appendix I. Dental Consent Form -- Appendix J. Dental Consent Quiz -- Appendix K. Dental Satisfaction Questionnaire -- Appendix L. Contact Scale -- Appendix M. Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale -- Appendix N. Violence Enabling Scale -- Appendix O. Hopkins Symptom Checklist -- Appendix P. Debriefing Form (Control) --Appendix Q. Debriefing Form (Experimental) -- Appendix R. Mental Health Services and Resources -- Appendix S. Faculty Solicitation E-Mail -- Appendix T. Faculty Study Description -- Appendix U. Psych Pool Study description -- Appendix V. Psych Pool Sign-Up Instructions --Appendix W. Study Consent Form -- Appendix X. Demographics Questionnaire