[Community attitudes towards mental illness and socio-demographic characteristics: an Italian study]

Chiara Buizza, Rosaria Pioli, Marco Ponteri, Michela Vittorielli, Angela Corradi, Nadia Minicuci, Giuseppe Rossi
Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale 2005, 14 (3): 154-62

AIM: To assess the association between socio-demographic characteristics and community attitudes towards mentally ill people.

METHOD: We assessed a sample of 280 subjects, stratified for sex and age, which has identified using the electoral registers of Brescia. A letter was sent to everyone in order to introduce the future potential study participant to the topics of the public attitudes towards mental illness and it included an invitation to take part in the study. After, 280 subjects were contacted by telephone. Finally, 174 persons, who expressed their willingness to collaborate, were visited by a team of four trained interviewers. The instruments used were: a semi-structured interview; the Community Attitudes to the Mentally Ill (CAMI) inventory, which is composed by 40 statements, concerning the degree of acceptance of mental health services and mentally ill patients in the community; and the Fear and Behavioural Intentions (FABI) inventory, which is composed by 10 items, concerning fears and behavioural intentions towards mentally ill people. 106 subjects refused to participate.

RESULTS: Factor analysis of the CAMI revealed three components Physical distance and fear, Social isolation and Social responsibility and tolerance. Factor 1 is associated with: people >61 years old; people being divorced/widowed/living separated; people who haven't participated in social or volunteer activities. Factor 2 is associated with: people > 41 years old; people being schooled at a level that's higher than elementary level; unemployed people. Factor 3 doesn't present any associations.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study outline the need to: a) promote interventions focused to improve the general attitude towards people with mental illness; b) to favour specific actions in order to prevent or eliminate prejudices in subgroups of the population.

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