Socially restrictive attitudes towards people with mental illness among the non-psychiatry medical professionals in a university teaching hospital in South India

Shashwath Sathyanath, Rohan Dilip Mendonsa, Anitha Maria Thattil, Varikkara Mohan Chandran, Ravichandra S Karkal
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2016, 62 (3): 221-6

BACKGROUND: Unfortunately, stigmatizing attitudes towards mentally ill are common among medical students, nurses as well as doctors. This is a major obstacle in the delivery of mental health services.

AIMS: To assess the socially restrictive attitudes towards mentally ill among the medical professionals and to investigate the association between such attitudes and relevant variables.

METHODS: We assessed the attitudes towards people with mental illness among the medical professionals (N = 130) in a medical university using shortened version of the 40-item Community Attitudes toward the Mentally Ill (CAMI) scale.

RESULTS: We found that socially restrictive attitudes were endorsed by quite a number of faculty members and trainees. Significantly higher number of faculty members (22.5%) compared to the trainees (9.1%) endorsed unfavourable attitudes towards previously mentally ill man getting married. Similarly, significantly more number of faculty (22.5%) were averse to the idea of living next door to someone who has been mentally ill compared to the trainees (9.1%). However, significantly lesser number of faculty members (16.1%) compared to the trainees (30.3%) believed that previously mentally ill people should be excluded from taking public office. Personal acquaintance with a mentally ill individual was the only variable that was associated with significantly lesser socially restrictive attitudes among the medical professionals, irrespective of their age, gender and clinical exposure to people with mental illness.

CONCLUSION: Socially restrictive attitudes towards people with mental illness are prevalent among substantial number of medical professionals in a low-income country like India. Personal acquaintance with people who have mental illness appears to be the only significant factor that reduces medical professionals' socially restrictive attitudes towards them.

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