Community attitudes towards the mentally ill: the results of a national survey of the Taiwanese population

Li-Yu Song, Ly-Yun Chang, Chaiw-Yi Shih, Chih-Yuan Lin, Ming-Jeng Yang
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2005, 51 (2): 162-76

BACKGROUND: In Taiwan, to strengthen the psychiatric rehabilitation system has been one of the primary goals of the Department of Health since 1985. Unfortunately, this endeavor has not been successful and it is believed that one of the barriers is social stigma towards the mentally ill. However, to date no national survey has been conducted for Chinese population on the focal topic using a random sample.

AIMS: In this study we explored the attitudes of the general population towards the mentally ill in Taiwan. Specifically, we examined the effect of contact on one's attitudes after controlling for demographic variables.

METHODS: A national survey was conducted on 1,203 subjects drawn through a stratified proportional random sampling. Data were collected using the Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview System. We conducted MANOVA and multiple regression analyses to explore the correlates of the attitudes.

RESULTS: The results revealed that the general population held relatively higher levels of benevolence, tolerance on rehabilitation in the community, and nonsocial restrictiveness. However, they held relatively less positive attitudes on non-authoritarianism and normalization. Overall, direct contact and age were the two most important correlates of community attitudes. Education and occupation were also significant.

CONCLUSIONS: Benevolent thoughts do not necessarily guarantee the acceptance of rehabilitation in the community or treating the mentally ill as a person like anyone else. However, the benevolent thought could be transformed into compassion and acceptance of another human being if people are given the opportunity to have direct contact with mentally ill persons. The results also indicated that community education should specifically target laborers of all age groups.

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