Perception and Attitude towards Mental Illness in an Urban Community in South Delhi - A Community Based Study

Harshal Salve, Kiran Goswami, Rajesh Sagar, Baridalyne Nongkynrih, Vishnubhatla Sreenivas
Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 2013, 35 (2): 154-8

BACKGROUND: Mental illness have been largely ignored or neglected because of a community's perception and attached social stigma.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A community based cross-sectional study was conducted in an urban community in South Delhi to study perception and attitude of the community about towards mental illness. An adult member in household selected by systematic random sampling was interviewed using semi-structured interview schedule for perception about mental illness and 34 item Opinion about Mental Illness for Chinese Community (OMICC) scale.

RESULTS: A total of 100 adults were interviewed. Mean age of the participants was 35.8 (SD: 12.6) years. Living without tension and satisfaction in routine life were identified as indicators of healthy mental status. Change in the behavior was perceived as the most common symptom of mental illness. Although mental stress was identified as the most common cause of mental illness, 25% attributed it to evil spirits. Keeping surroundings friendly and sharing problems with others were identified as - important preventive measures against mental illness. Mental illness was perceived as treatable; 12% preferred treatment from Tantric/Ojha. Community showed negative attitude for stereotyping, restrictiveness, and pessimistic prediction domains of OMICC scale with mean score of 4.5 (SD: 0.2), 3.9 (SD: 0.9), and 3.8 (SD: 0.4), respectively, with no statistically significant difference across age, sex, and literacy.

CONCLUSION: Study observed lack of awareness regarding bio-medical concept of mental illness with socially restrictive, stereotyping, pessimistic, and non-stigmatizing attitude toward mental illness in the capital city.

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