Attitudes towards people with mental illness: a cross-sectional study among nursing staff in psychiatric and somatic care

Tommy Björkman, Therese Angelman, Malin Jönsson
Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 2008, 22 (2): 170-7
Stigma and discrimination have been identified as important obstacles to the integration of people with mental illness in society. In efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination, health professionals play an important role as they have frequent contact with and responsibility for treatment and rehabilitation of consumers. The aim of the present study was to investigate attitudes towards mental illness and people with mental illness among nursing staff working in psychiatric or somatic care. The sample consisted of 120 registered or assistant nurses who were interviewed about intimacy with mental illness and attitudes about seven different mental illnesses. The results showed that nursing staff in somatic care, to a higher degree than nursing staff in mental health, reported more negative attitudes with regard to people with schizophrenia as being more dangerous and unpredictable. In contrast, professional experience, intimacy with mental illness and type of care organization were found to be more associated with attitudes to specific mental illnesses concerning the prospect of improvement with treatment and the prospect of recovery. In conclusion, attitudes among nursing staff are in several respects comparable with public opinions about mental illness and mentally ill persons. In order to elucidate if negative attitudes about dangerousness and unpredictability of persons with specific mental illnesses are associated with realistic experiences or with prejudices further studies with a qualitative design are suggested.

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