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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Stigma of mental illnesses as perceived by north korean defectors living in South Korea

Ji-Hoon Ahn, Won-Hyoung Kim, Hye-Jin Choi, Jin-Yong Jeon, In-Gyu Song, Jae-Nam Bae
Psychiatry Investigation 2015, 12 (1): 9-15
25670940

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to provide the information of the stigmas of mental illness such as psychosis, alcoholism, attempt suicide, and depression among North Korean defectors.

METHODS: We examined stigma for the mental illnesses of 639 North Korean defectors aged 19 to 65 years who live in the Settlement Support Center for North Korean Refugees. The stigmas of mental illnesses were assessed using the Perceived Devaluation-Discrimination Scale We directly compared the stigma level between North Korean defectors and the general population of South Korea.

RESULTS: North Korean defectors had higher perceived stigmas of psychosis and alcoholism and lower perceived stigmas of depression than South Koreans. Perceived stigma associated with attempted suicide was similar for North Korean defectors and South Koreans. Only marital status in sociodemographic variables had associations with higher perceived stigma of psychosis, alcoholism, and depression in the North Korean defectors. North Korean defectors, who spent more than one year in transit country, had associations with lower perceived stigma of psychosis and alcoholism. North Korean defectors, who had the experience of compulsory repatriation to North Korea or North Korean family in South Korea, had an association with higher perceived stigma of depression.

CONCLUSION: North Korean defectors had higher perceived stigmas of psychosis and alcoholism and lower perceived stigmas of depression than South Koreans. Further studies are needed to document serial changes in stigmas for mental illnesses associated with the receipt of education at the Settlement Support Center for North Korean defectors.

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