Department of Human Services Highlights Research Examining and Combatting Stigma for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism

Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) today released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to help them live an everyday life. This edition focuses on examining the stigma that persists around mental health and disabilities, and highlighting methods to combat and correct it.   

“One of DHS’ goals is ensuring that Pennsylvanians with disabilities have all of the services and supports they need to live everyday lives, and that support includes destigmatizing what it means to live with these diagnoses,” said Acting DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “We hope that this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal can provide examples of ways to address stigma and ensure that we are all working together to create a Pennsylvania that includes the talents of all people.”  

This edition features research and articles on the following:  

  • Data Discoveries: Data discoveries in this edition break down the perceptions and stigma of individuals who disclose their autism diagnosis in their workplace.  

  • The Importance of Peer Support and Stigma Awareness: My Journey in Mental and Physical Health: This article details the real-life experience of a father whose daughter experienced instances of mental health stigma but was helped by peer supports.  

  • Life Through My Lens: An Exploration of Self-Stigma: This article discusses the importance of addressing mental health stigma within oneself in order to address stigma in the world. The Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association has developed a class to help people in reducing self-stigma and understanding what it means to feel good about themselves.  

  • Overcoming Stigma Through Education and Capacity Building in Communities: This article talks about the role that social stigma plays in the lives of those with disabilities and offers a case study in how to build collaborative supports within communities to ensure that people with disabilities can lead everyday lives.  

  • Mental Health Stigma Across Ethnic Minority Identities: This article addresses different mental health stigmas surrounding ethnic and racial identity, and how it can impact mental health care.   

  • Lessons from the Community: The Critical Importance of Lived Experience When Designing Trauma Recovery Programs: This article reviews the importance of community engagement when designing clinical interventions and supports. This research highlights the need for enhanced trauma recovery and resilience building for the neurodivergent community following the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The journal is a collaboration of DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and collects resources, observations, and advancements in mental and behavioral health in order to better serve the people of Pennsylvania.  

Read this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal.  

For more information visit  

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DHS Media Contact Details

Press Office

Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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Ali Fogarty

Communications Director Department of Human Director 717-425-7606
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Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
Department of Human Services Media