Knowledge and attitudes towards mental illness among college students: insights into the wider English-speaking Caribbean population

Farid F Youssef, Raecho Bachew, Dalecia Bodie, Richanna Leach, Kevin Morris, Glenderia Sherma
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2014, 60 (1): 47-54

BACKGROUND: Mental illness is a significant contributor to global disease burden and this is expected to increase over the coming decades. Traditionally mental illness has not been well understood by the general public, resulting in poor attitudes towards persons with mental illness and stigmatization. Such conditions are common in the Caribbean where less than 5% of the health budget is allocated to mental illness.

AIMS: To assess knowledge and attitudes towards mental illness among college students within the English-speaking Caribbean.

METHODS: A self-report questionnaire was adapted from previous studies designed to measure knowledge and attitudes of mental illness. Students were sampled from the University of the West Indies campuses in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago.

RESULTS: Responses were collected from 673 persons with a response rate of 84%. While participants were agreed that particular diseases were mental illnesses, overall knowledge scores were low. Knowledge was higher among those persons who knew someone with a mental illness. Attitude scores were suggestive of stigmatization, with drug abuse and schizophrenia seen in a particularly poor light.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that widespread educational campaigns need to be implemented across the region, designed to both increase knowledge about mental illness and reduce discrimination towards persons suffering with mental illness.


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