Perceived Stigma Regarding Mental Illnesses among Rural Adults in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, South India

Apoorva Guttikonda, Aleena M Shajan, Adeline Hephzibah, Akhila S Jones, Jerlyn Susanna, Sunil Neethu, Sharon Poornima, Sarah M Jala, D Arputharaj, David John, Nehemiah Natta, Dolorosa Fernandes, Shalini Jeyapaul, Dimple Jamkhandi, H Ramamurthy Prashanth, Anu M Oommen
Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 2019, 41 (2): 173-177

Background: Stigma is an important factor that determines whether individuals seek treatment for mental illnesses. Studies assessing public perceptions regarding mental illnesses are scarce in India. This study documents the stigma perceived by a rural population toward patients with mental illness and their families.

Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional pilot study was done in five villages, selected by simple random sampling, from a rural block in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. Households in each village were selected by systematic random sampling. From the selected households, 150 subjects aged 18-65 years, without known mental disorders, were chosen by convenience sampling, based on availability. Stigma was assessed using the Devaluation of Consumers Scale (DCS) and Devaluation of Consumer's Families Scale (DCFS).

Results: The proportion with high perceptions of stigma associated with mentally ill persons was 63.8%, among the 150 interviewed rural respondents (women: 112, median age: 37 years). The proportion which perceived that there was public stigma toward families of those with mental illnesses was 43.4%. Older respondents (>37 years) had higher perceptions of stigma (odds ratio: 2.07; 95% confidence interval: 1.02-4.20) than others.

Conclusion: The high perception of stigma associated with persons who are mentally ill as well as their families needs to be kept in mind while planning interventions to decrease the treatment gap for psychiatric morbidity, especially in rural areas.

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