Psychology alum publishes her undergrad research on mental health stigmas in Guam
A study by University of Guam alumna Corinth T. Aguon and Professor of Psychology Yoshito Kawabata has drawn a link between stigma about mental health and one’s intent to seek mental health treatment. The study was published in April in the Asian American Journal of Psychology, an academic journal of the Asian American Psychological Association.
The study, titled “Examining mental health stigma on Guam: A serial mediation model,” explored the presence and negative impacts of mental health stigmas in Guam among 111 CHamorus of different ages and occupations. The study explains how two types of stigmas — public stigma and self-stigma — potentially impact an individual’s attitudes and behavioral intent to seek mental health treatment.
The findings indicate that high public stigma can lead to lower intent to seek mental health treatment for CHamorus through an indirect path of self-stigma.
Aguon, ’21 B.S. in Psychology and BSW, conducted the study as an undergraduate student at UOG. Kawabata, who assisted Aguon with the research design, data collection, and data analysis, said it’s a rare and significant accomplishment for a senior honors thesis to be published in an international, peer-reviewed journal.
On choosing the topic, Aguon said, “I began to think about some of the people in my life who were struggling with mental health challenges and have heard negative comments surrounding their treatment.”
After looking into the rates of mental illnesses and the number of people seeking treatment in Guam, it became apparent to Aguon that there was a significant disparity between the two, particularly for CHamoru individuals.
“It was then that I decided I wanted to examine the presence of mental health stigma here on Guam and conduct research that could help our island community,” she said.
The study took approximately three years to publication. The findings can be used as a starting point for the development of programs that reduce mental health stigma, Aguon said.
“Whether it be challenging the stereotypes of mental illness, using non-stigmatizing language, or creating policies that do not oppress individuals with mental health challenges, any step towards reducing stigma is critical to make sure people receive the treatment they need,” she said.
Aguon said she plans to expand on this study in the future. She is considering using a qualitative approach and including other populations in Guam to gain a deeper understanding of how stigma functions through different cultural and societal lenses.
“It was really through the guidance and support from my mentor, Dr. Kawabata, that this research is what it is today,” she said.