Understanding and Addressing Mental Health Disparities and Stigma in Serious Illness and Palliative Care

James Gerhart, Laura Bouchard Oswald, Laurie McLouth, Lindsey Gibb, Laura Perry, Ashley Eaton England, Timothy Sannes, Delaney Schoenbine, Katherine Ramos, Jared Greenberg, Sean O’Mahony, Stacie Levine, Aliza Baron, Michael Hoerger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients receiving palliative care experience stigma associated with their illness, personal identity, and healthcare utilization. These stigmas can occur at any stage of the disease process. Varying stigmas combine to cause palliative care patients to feel misunderstood, contribute to treatment barriers, and further negative stereotypes held by clinicians. Stigma surrounding palliative care patients stems from complex intersections of varied access to resources, familial and physical environment, socioeconomic status, mental health and disorders, and identity characteristics. This article examines the relationship between the stigmatization of mental health and palliative care through three pathways: stigma and barriers existing within healthcare, the tendency of this stigma to undermine social support, and patient deferral of treatment-seeking in response to stigma. Recommendations to address and diminish stigmatization are presented, including advocacy, increased research and assessment, and contextual and intersectional awareness. Clinicians are also encouraged to turn to their colleagues for peer support and team-based care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIllness Crisis and Loss
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • mental health
  • palliative care
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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