Stigmatising attitudes towards persons with mental illness: a survey of medical students and interns from Southern Nigeria

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Bawo Onesirosan James *
Joyce Ohiole Omoaregba
Esther Osemudiamen Okogbenin
(*) Corresponding Author:
Bawo Onesirosan James | bawojames@yahoo.com

Abstract

Stigmatising attitudes towards persons with mental illness are commonly reported among health professionals. Familiarity with mental illness has been reported to improve these attitudes. Very few studies have compared future medical doctors’ attitudes toward types of mental illness, substance use disorders and physical illness. A cross-sectional survey of 5th and 6th year medical students as well as recently graduated medical doctors was conducted in April 2011. The 12-item level of contact report  and the Attitude towards Mental Illness Questionnaire were administered. Participants endorsed stigmatising attitudes towards mental illness; with attitudes more adverse for schizophrenia compared to depression. Stigmatising attitudes were similarly endorsed for substance use disorders. Paradoxically, attitudes towards HIV/AIDS were positive and similar to diabetes mellitus. Increasing familiarity with mental illness was weakly associated with better attitudes towards depression and schizophrenia. Stigmatising attitudes towards depression and schizophrenia are common among future doctors. Efforts to combat stigma are urgently needed and should be promoted among medical students and recent medical graduates.

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