Myths, Beliefs and Perceptions about Mental Disorders and Health-Seeking Behavior in Delhi, India

Article excerpt

Byline: Jugal. Kishore, Avni. Gupta, Ram. Jiloha, Patrick. Bantman

Objectives: To assess the myths, beliefs and perceptions about mental disorders and health-seeking behavior in general population and medical professionals of India. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out with a sample of 436 subjects (360 subjects from urban and rural communities of Delhi and 76 medical professionals working in different organizations in Delhi). A pre-tested questionnaire consisting items on perceptions, myths, and beliefs about causes, treatment, and health-seeking behavior for mental disorders was used. The collected data were statistically analyzed using computer software package Epi-info. Appropriate tests of significance were applied to detect any significant association. Results: The mental disorders were thought to be because of loss of semen or vaginal secretion (33.9% rural, 8.6% urban, 1.3% professionals), less sexual desire (23.7% rural, 18% urban), excessive masturbation (15.3% rural, 9.8% urban), God's punishment for their past sins (39.6% rural, 20.7% urban, 5.2% professionals), and polluted air (51.5% rural, 11.5% urban, 5.2% professionals). More people (37.7%) living in joint families than in nuclear families (26.5%) believed that sadness and unhappiness cause mental disorders. 34.8% of the rural subjects and 18% of the urban subjects believed that children do not get mental disorders, which means they have conception of adult-oriented mental disorders. 40.2% in rural areas, 33.3% in urban areas, and 7.9% professionals believed that mental illnesses are untreatable. Many believed that psychiatrists are eccentric (46.1% rural, 8.4% urban, 7.9% professionals), tend to know nothing, and do nothing (21.5% rural, 13.7% urban, 3.9% professionals), while 74.4% of rural subjects, 37.1% of urban subjects, and 17.6% professionals did not know that psychiatry is a branch of medicine. More people in rural areas than in urban area thought that keeping fasting or a faith healer can cure them from mental illnesses, whereas 11.8% of medical professionals believed the same. Most of the people reported that they liked to go to someone close who could listen to their problems, when they were sad and anxious. Only 15.6% of urban and 34.4% of the rural population reported that they would like to go to a psychiatrist when they or their family members are suffering from mental illness. Conclusion: It can be concluded from this study that the myths and misconceptions are significantly more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas and among medical professionals, and the people need to be communicated to change their behavior and develop a positive attitude toward mental disorders so that health-seeking behavior can improve.


Mental and behavioral disorders are present at any point in time in about 10% of the adult population worldwide. The burden of mental disorders is maximal in young adults, the most productive section of the population. Neuropsychiatry conditions together account for 10.96% of the global burden of disease as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Projections estimate that by the year 2020, neuropsychiatric conditions will account for 15% of disabilities worldwide, with unipolar depression alone accounting for 5.7% of DALYs and will stand second in top 10 leading causes of disability. [sup][1] The total economic costs of mental disorders are substantial in terms of gross national product (GNP) loss. In most countries, families bear a significant proportion of these economic costs because of the absence of public funded comprehensive mental health service networks. Families also incur social costs, such as the emotional burden of looking after disabled family members, diminished quality of life for carers, social exclusion, stigmatization, and loss of future opportunities for self-improvement. [sup][2] This burden emphasizes the need of scientific studies in various aspects of mental disorders. …


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