Determinants of mental health stigma among pharmacy students in Australia, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, India and Latvia

J S Bell, S E Aaltonen, M S Airaksinen, D Volmer, M S Gharat, R Muceniece, A Vitola, V Foulon, F A Desplenter, T F Chen
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2010, 56 (1): 3-14

BACKGROUND: Healthcare professionals commonly exhibit negative attitudes toward people with mental disorders. Few international studies have sought to investigate the determinants of stigma.

OBJECTIVE: To conduct an international comparison of pharmacy students' stigma towards people with schizophrenia, and to determine whether stigma is consistently associated with stereotypical attributes of people with schizophrenia.

METHOD: Students (n = 649) at eight universities in Australia, Belgium, India, Finland, Estonia and Latvia completed a seven-item Social Distance Scale (SDS) and six items related to stereotypical attributes of people with schizophrenia.

RESULTS: Mean SDS scores were 19.65 (+/- 3.97) in Australia, 19.61 (+/- 2.92) in Belgium, 18.75 (+/- 3.57) in India, 18.05 (+/- 3.12) in Finland, and 20.90 (+/- 4.04) in Estonia and Latvia. Unpredictability was most strongly associated with having a high social distance in Australia (beta = -1.285), the perception that people will never recover in India (beta = - 0.881), dangerousness in Finland (beta = -1.473) and the perception of being difficult to talk to in Estonia and Latvia (beta = -2.076). Unpredictability was associated with lower social distance in Belgium (beta = 0.839).

CONCLUSION: The extent to which students held stigmatizing attitudes was similar in each country, however, the determinants of stigma were different. Pharmacy education may need to be tailored to address the determinants of stigma in each country.

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