Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Attitude of Doctors towards Mentally Ill in Hyderabad, India: Results of a Prospective Survey

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Attitude of Doctors towards Mentally Ill in Hyderabad, India: Results of a Prospective Survey

Article excerpt

Byline: Vaishnavi. Challapallisri, Lloyd. Dempster

Background: Wide prevalence of mental illness has been documented in South India; however, the magnitude of stigma is unclear. Aims: The aim was to investigate the magnitude of stigma prevalent among medical professionals in Hyderabad, India. Materials and Methods: A prospective survey of seven common psychiatric disorders for eight specified perceptions was conducted. Responses of 226 out of 250 (90%) doctors were analyzed. Results: Significant overall negative perception (P < 0.001), with drug addiction (52.8%) and alcoholism (48.2%) eliciting most negative perceptions (Chi-square: P <0.05) was observed. Significant negative perceptions were also seen among married doctors and those with < 10 years experience. Even though, there was no overall difference based on gender (P = 0.242), more females had significant negative perception toward eating disorders, depression, dementia, alcoholism and schizophrenic patients (P ≤ 0.05). Conclusions: This study revealed negative attitude of doctors toward mentally ill and highlighted the gender difference in perceptions.

Introduction

World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Mental wellbeing has been emphasized for ages, yet to this day mental health professionals encounter stigma in their daily practice that hinders the recovery process and reduces the quality of life of their patients. [sup][1] Profound negative attitudes toward psychiatric illness were documented in the early studies. [sup][2] The stigma associated with mental illness is well-recognized in the West. However, there is insufficient data about stigma in developing countries. [sup][3] Previous research studies conducted in India revealed that psychiatry is still an evolving specialty. [sup][4] Kapur described that in India religious beliefs and traditional medicine played a major role in the treatment seeking pattern of patients and that patients from rural areas were initially seen by religious healers and patients would get to urban-based psychiatrists only if symptoms hadn't resolved. It has been observed that symptoms of mental illness are always interpreted along religious lines and stigma is prevalent. [sup][5] Literature on stigma in India revealed that rural Indians showed greater stigma compared to urban dwellers. Urban group showed a strong link between stigma and not wishing to work with a mentally ill individual. [sup][6] Further urban patient population felt the need to hide their illness and avoided illness histories in job applications, whereas rural patient population experienced more ridicule, shame and discrimination. [sup][7] In developing countries like India, the above evidence shows that stigma associated with mental illness has risen. Research demonstrated that South India is the suicide capital of India. [sup][8] Hyderabad is one of the larger cities in South India and is the capital and economic hub of its state, Andhra Pradesh. There is no data available on stigma towards mentally ill in this region. The only significant data available pertaining to psychiatric illness and the psychiatrically ill was on suicide and help seeking attitude of mentally ill. Research on suicide rate in other South Indian states such as Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh showed that the suicide rate was >15% when compared to <3% in the Northern states of India. This high suicide rate in south India was attributed, among other factors, to modernization and result of only small percentage of people with mental illness seeking medical help. [sup][9] Case-control studies in two major cities in South India, Chennai and Bangalore revealed that among those who died by suicide, 88% in Chennai and 43% in Bangalore had diagnosable mental disorders. However, only 10% ever visited a mental health professional. …

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