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Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness: Qualitative study

  • Sokratis Dinos (a1), Scott Stevens (a2), Marc Serfaty (a1), Scott Weich (a1) and Michael King (a1)...
Abstract
Background

Stigma defines people in terms of some distinguishing characteristic and devalues them as a consequence.

Aims

To describe the relationship of stigma with mental illness, psychiatric diagnosis, treatment and its consequences of stigma for the individual.

Method

Narrative interviews were conducted by trained users of the local mental health services; 46 patients were recruited from community and day mental health services in North London.

Results

Stigma was a pervasive concern to almost all participants. People with psychosis or drug dependence were most likely to report feelings and experiences of stigma and were most affected by them. Those with depression, anxiety and personality disorders were more affected by patronising attitudes and feelings of stigma even if they had not experienced any overt discrimination. However, experiences were not universally negative.

Conclusions

Stigma may influence how a psychiatric diagnosis is accepted, whether treatment will be adhered to and how people with mental illness function in the world. However, perceptions of mental illness and diagnoses can be helpful and non-stigmatising for some patients.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Michael King, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK. E-mail: m.king@rfc.ucl.ac.uk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness: Qualitative study

  • Sokratis Dinos (a1), Scott Stevens (a2), Marc Serfaty (a1), Scott Weich (a1) and Michael King (a1)...
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eLetters

Stigma: a triad!

Dr.Naseem A. qureshi
10 February 2004

I am delighted to read an article by Dinos and colleagues [2004] about stigma against patients with mental illness. This qualitative, comprehensive study highlights the deep and genuine experiences of patients with severe mental disorders. Moreover, it explores only one of the components of stigma, which, according to my introspection also consists of other two components including mental health professionals andpublic at large. Each component plays an important role in sustaining and perpetuating stigma against mental disorders. Furthermore, reportedly mental patients are stigmatized and so mental health professionals. Likewise, a family with an individual with mental disorder is also looked down upon by people with no mental disorders. Globally, there is a converging evidence that stigma has multiple, diverse adverse implications, which include diagnostic labeling, treatment and compliance,outcome and disabilities, and finally economic.

The stigma against mental patients, mental disorders, mental hospitals, and mental health professionals can be reduced considerably by addressing the three integrated and interrelated components of stigma. Education is the best tool for this purpose. Continuing psychiatric education and psychiatric programs directed towards changing negative attitudes of all involved-patients,mental health professionals, and publicmay reduce stigma against mental patients globally.

Declaration of interest:none

Reference

Sokratis Dinos, Scott Stevens, Marc Serfaty, Scott Weich, and MichaelKing. Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness: Qualitative study. Br J Psychiatry 2004; 184: 176-181

Address:POBox.2292, Buraidah mental Health Hosp, KSA

FAx.+96663853010
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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Reducing stigma in Psychiatry

Sudhir Kumar, Consultant Neurologist
01 February 2004

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the recent article by Dinos et al (2004), where they report their findings on the magnitude of stigma perceived and experienced by a group of patients with mental illness. I would like to make certain observations that could be useful in reducing this stigma.

Firstly, psychiatrists and other physicians themselves need to do their best to reduce stigma to patients. Concerns have been raised about the role played by psychiatrists in promoting stigma (Chaplin, 2000). Thismay be partly related to attitudes formed during initial medical training.It has been found that medical students showed greater regard for patientswith major depression after a psychiatry clerkship, and students who rotated through an addiction treatment program showed a greater increase in regard for patients with alcoholism than did students not exposed to addiction treatment (Christison et al, 2002). Therefore, provisions shouldbe made to adequately expose medical students to these conditions.

Secondly, the department name as “Department of Psychiatry” may be associated with feelings of stigma among patients. An increase in the number of new outpatients resulted with a change of name to “Mental Clinic” in Japan (Hirosawa M, 2002). Moreover, the departments of Psychiatry are located away from the main hospital complex in many places.In our hospital, a psychiatrist’s consultation can be obtained in both thescenarios- “Mental health center” situated away from the main hospital andthe “Psychiatry department” situated in the main hospital complex. Patients feel less stigmatized using the second facility. Therefore, it would definitely help reduce stigma if psychiatric services are located ina common building along with other departments. Patients with mental illness would then view their illnesses as any other systemic illness.

Finally, educating public about the fact that mental illnesses are actually related to abnormalities in the brain would also be helpful.

References

Chaplin R (2000). Psychiatrists can cause stigma too. Br J Psychiatry; 177:467.

Christison GW, Haviland MG, Riggs ML (2002). The medical condition regard scale: measuring reactions to diagnoses. Acad Med.;77:257-62.

Dinos S, Stevens S, Serfaty M, Weich S, King M (2004). Stigma: the feelings and experiences of 46 people with mental illness: Qualitative study. Br J Psychiatry; 184: 176-181

Hirosawa M, Shimada H, Fumimoto H, Ito K, Arai H (2002). Response of Japanese patients to the change of department name for the psychiatric outpatient clinic in a university hospital. Gen Hosp Psychiarty. 24: 269-74
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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