Public stigma against people with mental illness in the Gilgel Gibe Field Research Center (GGFRC) in Southwest Ethiopia

Eshetu Girma, Markos Tesfaye, Guenter Froeschl, Anne Maria Möller-Leimkühler, Norbert Müller, Sandra Dehning
PloS One 2013, 8 (12): e82116

BACKGROUND: Public understanding about mental illnesses and attitudes towards people with mental illness (PWMI) play a paramount role in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and the rehabilitation of PWMI. The aim of this study was to measure public stigma against PWMI and the factors associated with stigma in the Gilgel Gibe Field Research Center (GGFRC) in Southwest Ethiopia.

METHODS: This community-based, cross-sectional study was conducted from June to August 2012 among 845 randomly selected respondents by using the Community Attitudes towards the Mentally Ill (CAMI) scale, an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Data was entered with EPI-DATA and then exported to STATA for analysis. Simple descriptive and linear regression analyses were performed to identify predictors of stigma against PWMI.

RESULTS: Of the total of 845 respondents, 68.17% were from rural districts. The mean stigma score was 2.62 on a 5-point score. The majority of the respondents (75.27%) believed that mental illness can be cured. Stress, poverty, and rumination were the most often perceived causes of mental illness. Rural residents had significantly higher stigma scores (std. β = 0.61, P<0.001). A statistically significant inverse relationship was found between the level of education and degree of stigma (std. β = -0.14, P<0.01), while higher income was significantly associated with more stigma (std. β = 0.07, P<0.05). Respondents with higher scores for perceived supernatural causes (std. β = -0.09, P<0.01) and perceived psychosocial and biological causes (std. β = -0.14, P<0.001) had significantly lower stigma levels.

CONCLUSIONS: The study found a more undermining but less avoidant attitude towards PWMI. Rural residents showed higher levels of stigma. Stigma against PWMI was lower in people with an explanatory concept about the causes of mental illness and a higher level of education. Information, education, and communication about the causes, signs, and nature of mental illnesses would help to reduce stigma.

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