Attitudes towards mental disorders and psychiatric treatment—changes over time in a Swedish population

Lisa Ineland, Lars Jacobssson, Ellinor Salander Renberg, Per Sjölander
Nordic Journal of Psychiatry 2008, 62 (3): 192-7
Over the years a lot of research of attitudes towards mental disorders, towards people with mental illness and towards psychiatric services and treatment have shown a persistent negative attitude. There are, however, few studies on changes over time. The aim of this study was to compare responses to a questionnaire on attitudes towards mental disorders and psychiatric patients and the perception of psychiatric treatment in a community in northern Sweden in 1976 and 2003. In 1976 a random sample of 391 persons 18-70 years of age were asked and in 2003 a new sample of 500 persons from the same community were approached with the same questions. There are considerable changes over time. In 2003, almost 90% agree to the statement that mental illness harms the reputation more than physical illness, compared with 50% in 1976. In 2003, 51% agreed to the statement "Most people with mental disorders commit violent acts more than others" compared with 24% in 1976. There is an apparent ambivalence towards psychiatric treatment. Whilst 88% would advice a person with mental problems to contact a psychiatrist, still 26% would not like themselves to be referred to a psychiatrist. We argue that improving treatment methods is as important as changing attitudes through accurate information.

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