Mental health literacy, stigma and perception of causation of mental illness among Chinese people in Taiwan

Xiao Yu Zhuang, Daniel Fu Keung Wong, Chi-Wei Cheng, Shu-Man Pan
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 2017, 63 (6): 498-507

BACKGROUND: Few studies have been performed to explore mental health literacy and stigmatising attitudes towards mental illness and their relationships with causal beliefs about mental illness among Chinese people in Taiwan.

AIMS: Using a comparative approach, this study attempted to compare the mental health literacy and stigmatising attitudes of Taiwanese Chinese with those found among Australian and Japanese participants in other studies and to explore how mental health literacy and stigmatising attitudes relate to different perceptions of causes of mental illness.

METHODS: A convenience sample of 287 participants completed a battery of standardised questionnaires.

RESULTS: A much lower percentage of Taiwanese people than Australians could correctly identify depression and schizophrenia. The Taiwanese respondents rated psychiatrists and clinical psychologists as more helpful than social workers and general practitioners (GPs) and expressed more uncertainty about the usefulness of certain medications when compared to the Australian and Japanese samples. Interestingly, Taiwanese Chinese hold similarly high levels of stigma towards schizophrenia, but lower levels of stigma towards depression when compared to the Japanese respondents. Taiwanese respondents who have higher levels of mental health literacy about schizophrenia were less willing to interact with people with schizophrenia than those with lower levels of mental health literacy.

CONCLUSION: This study underlines the need for public education programmes to improve knowledge of various mental illnesses and to reduce stigmatising attitudes among Taiwanese Chinese. The aforementioned socially and culturally driven beliefs must be taken into consideration so that culturally relevant education programmes can be developed.

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