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Half of Americans have mental illness in lifetime

Dec. 18, 2011 at 5:56 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Nearly half of all people in the United States will experience a mental illness during their lifetimes, but the stigma remains, researchers say.

However, a Web site, developed in collaboration among researchers at the University of Virginia, Harvard University and University of Washington, allows visitors to examine and gain insight into their associations about mental health topics that may exist outside their conscious awareness or conscious control.

Visitors at the Web site Project Implicit Mental Health can discover their automatic associations relating to anxiety, depression, alcohol, eating disorders and persons with mental illness, using tasks such as the Implicit Association Test.

The Web site provides users with opportunities to try one or more measures of automatic associations -- evaluations that occur rapidly and are very difficult to consciously control -- relevant to mental health. The site then gives feedback on what each measure reveals.

These associations can differ from slower, more intentional evaluations, the researchers said.

Researchers use the Implicit Association Test to assess mental associations that may be different than what people know or say about themselves, the researchers said.

Research suggests that people sometimes have implicit belief systems that contradict their declared beliefs. Bethany Teachman, principal investigator and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia said these implicit beliefs can affect actions, such as how they view people with mental illnesses, including themselves.

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