Victoria Vertilo '12 and Janet Gibson presenting research during poster sessionVictoria Vertilo ’12 and psychology professor Janet Gibson have published a paper, “Influence of character strengths on mental-health stigma,” in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

“The paper presents correlational and experimental data of individual differences measures on character strengths (e.g., hope, open-mindedness, and kindness) and mental health stigma,” says Gibson.

Vertilo completed the research in a Mentored Advanced Project with Gibson in 2012. They presented the research at a professional conference in May 2013, and then wrote and submitted the paper later that the year. The journal accepted it in January 2014.

Vertilo is now a graduate student at Claremont Graduate University. She is pursuing a master's degree in positive organizational psychology and evaluation.

“Positive psychology is a relatively new field in psychology that emphasizes the strengths people have,” says Gibson. “There is an increased interest in practical methods for using positive psychological interventions to enhance well-being,” she adds. Vertilo’s research is part of the growing field of research on promoting positive qualities within individuals, says Gibson.

The paper abstract says, “Stigma – a process that objectifies and dehumanizes a person who has mental illness – diminishes people’s ability to control their behavior as coping with stigma requires self-regulation. Exploring mental health stigma through the lens of character strengths allows for understanding individual differences and kinds of characteristics that help decrease the ramifications associated with stigma of mental health.”

They found that “character strengths of social intelligence and kindness were indicative of less stigma of mental health. More open-minded individuals tended to not hold individuals diagnosed with a mental health disorder personally responsible for acquiring that disorder.”

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