COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Beliefs about the mentally ill: a comparative study between healthcare professionals in Brazil and in Switzerland

Nadia Des Courtis, Christoph Lauber, Celio Trujillo Costa, Katja Cattapan-Ludewig
International Review of Psychiatry 2008, 20 (6): 503-9
19085405

OBJECTIVE: Little is known in our own as well as in other cultures about the knowledge and prejudices mental health professionals have about mental illness and those affected. We therefore: 1) assessed mental health literacy and general attitudes towards people with mental illness in a sample of Brazilian mental health professionals; 2) compared the outcomes among the different professional groups; and 3) compared the data with a sample of Swiss mental health professionals.

METHODS: A questionnaire used to assess knowledge and attitudes towards the mentally ill among mental health professionals in Switzerland was translated into Portuguese. Mental health professionals were presented a case vignette describing a person suffering from a major depression as well as related treatment proposals. Furthermore, general attitudes towards people with mental illness were assessed.

RESULTS: Both samples had equal scores for social acceptance. Brazilian mental health professionals displayed a more positive attitude towards community psychiatry whereas the Swiss sample showed more stigmatization and social distance, and a more positive attitude towards psychopharmacology. Recognition of the case vignette was significantly better in Brazil than in Switzerland (94.7% versus 71%). Mental health professionals in Brazil were more conservative/medically orientated in their treatment propositions whereas professionals from Switzerland also proposed social interventions and alternative treatment strategies.

CONCLUSIONS: There are some major differences in attitudes towards people with mental illness between mental health professionals in Switzerland and Brazil. With respect to therapeutic interventions, the different healthcare systems as well as the cultural differences seem to have an impact.

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