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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness: toward caregivers' empowerment

Eshetu Girma, Anne Maria Möller-Leimkühler, Sandra Dehning, Norbert Mueller, Markos Tesfaye, Guenter Froeschl
Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare 2014, 7: 37-43
24470760

BACKGROUND: In addition to economic and material burdens, caregivers of people with mental illness are exposed to psychosocial challenges. Self-stigma is among the psychological challenges that can be exacerbated by intrinsic and/or extrinsic factors. Caregivers' self-stigma can negatively influence the patients' treatment and rehabilitation process. The objective of this study was to measure the level and correlates of self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.

METHODS: An interviewer-administered cross-sectional study was conducted in the Jimma University Specialized Hospital Psychiatry Clinic in Ethiopia on a sample of 422 caregivers. Data were collected by trained nurses working in the clinic using a pretested questionnaire. Multivariate linear regression was performed to identify the correlates of self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.

RESULTS: The majority (70.38%) of the caregivers were male. On a scale of 0 to 15, with 0 being low and 15 being high, the average self-stigmatizing attitude score was 4.68 (±4.11). A statistically significant difference in mean self-stigma score was found between urban and rural respondents (t=3.95, P<0.05). Self-stigma of caregivers showed significant positive correlation with perceived signs of mental illness (r=0.18, P<0.001), perceived supernatural explanations of mental illness (r=0.26, P<0.001), and perceived psychosocial and biological explanations of mental illness (r=0.12, P<0.01). The only independent predictor of caregivers' self-stigma was perceived supernatural explanation of mental illness (standardized β=0.22, P<0.001).

CONCLUSION: The tendency of caregivers to avoid being identified with the patients was observed. Low exposure to mental health information was also reported. Caregivers' self-stigma in this study was significantly correlated with perceived supernatural explanation of mental illness. Since caregivers' self-stigma may negatively influence patients' treatment-seeking, adherence, and rehabilitation processes, programs that enhance coping strategies by strengthening self-esteem and empowerment by health care providers and establish family support groups may be helpful to tackle self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.

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