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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Community attitudes and social distance towards the mentally ill in South Sudan: a survey from a post-conflict setting with no mental health services

Touraj Ayazi, Lars Lien, Arne Eide, Elizabeth Joseph Shadar Shadar, Edvard Hauff
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2014, 49 (5): 771-80
24136000

PURPOSE: This study investigates attitudes and social distance towards the mentally ill in a post-conflict, low-income country.

METHODS: A cross-sectional community survey (n = 1,200) was conducted in South Sudan. Associations between various sociodemographic variables and attitudes toward/social distance from the mentally ill were investigated.

RESULTS: The regression analysis showed that lower levels of education were positively associated with social distance, and Christian or Muslim beliefs, compared with traditional beliefs, were negatively associated with social distance. Familiarity with mental illness or psychological distress was not significantly associated with social distance. Participants who endorsed community-oriented attitudes (rather than hospital/drug-oriented attitudes) about health care for the mentally ill were more likely show a decreased social distance. Participants who believed that the mentally ill were dangerous had higher scores on the social distance scale.

CONCLUSIONS: A high level of stigma towards the mentally ill exists in South Sudan, especially in the rural areas. Alongside efforts to build up mental health services in South Sudan, the existing stigma needs to be addressed. Information regarding the role of the community both in preventing mental illnesses and in service delivery should be prioritised.

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