Stigmatization of people with mental illness among inhabitants of a rural community in northern Nigeria

Ishaq A Audu, Suleiman H Idris, Victor O Olisah, Taiwo L Sheikh
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2013, 59 (1): 55-60

BACKGROUND: Despite the fact that mental illness is a common problem in society, people's perception of the mentally ill and community attitude towards them is still rather poor, making their rehabilitation and reintegration into society an uphill task.

AIMS: To examine the stigmatization of people with mental illness within a rural community and identify the socio-demographic variables involved.

METHOD: A cross-sectional descriptive study using a multi-stage random sampling technique to obtain data through an interviewer-administered questionnaire to 325 adult inhabitants of a rural community in Nigeria.

RESULTS: The results showed widespread ignorance about causation, mode of transmission and remedies available for mental illness, with only 0.9% of respondents attributing mental illness to brain disease. The others attributed it to spiritual attack, punishment for evil doing and illicit psychoactive substance use, among other things. Negative views about the mentally ill were also widely expressed resulting in discriminatory practices.

CONCLUSION: Stigmatization of people with mental illness is still rampant in our community. There is a need for adequate public education about the causes and mode of transmission of mental illness and the treatment options available in the community.

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