Attitude of Nagas towards Mental Disorders in Relationship to Age and Gender

By Longkumer, Imlisongla; Borooah, Indranee Phookan | Indian Journal of Community Psychology, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Attitude of Nagas towards Mental Disorders in Relationship to Age and Gender


Longkumer, Imlisongla, Borooah, Indranee Phookan, Indian Journal of Community Psychology


INTRODUCTION

Misconceptions about mental disorders have been common everywhere since the ancient times. Many around the world are ignorant about the nature, cause, treatment and prognosis about mental disorders and it is this lack of adequate knowledge that leads to stigmatizing attitudes toward people who are subject to such disorders. While being afflicted with a mental disorder like schizophrenia or depression can be debilitating in itself, the stigma associated with such disorders can make it even worse. In many cases, people with mental disorders and their family members are hesitant to talk about these problems and do not seek appropriate help for fear of being ridiculed and mocked. With the rising cases of mental disorders worldwide, it is imperative that every member of society is informed about the nature of such disorders so as to break down the age old stigma associated with such disorders.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates show that 25 percent of all people are affected by mental disorders at some time during their lives and that the proportion contributed by such disorders to the global disease burden will go up from 10.5 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2020 (WHO report 2001).WHO estimates also show that globally about 400 million people of all ages suffer from depression, 60 million from bipolar disorder, 21 million from schizophrenia, and 35 million from dementia. Unless people develop positive attitudes toward mental disorders and toward those afflicted with such disorders, stigma will continue and these disorders will continue to remain a global burden and will continue to be the cause of suffering and misery to millions across the world. It is towards this end that the WHO mental health action plan for 2013-2020 calls for changes in attitude that perpetuate stigma and discrimination (WHO report, 2013).

Many existing studies in different parts of the world show ignorance about causation and treatment of mental disorders and persistent negative attitudes towards those with mental disorders (Jorm et al., 2000; Jackowska, 2009; Audu et al., 2013, Venkatesh et al., 2015), while some have reported considerable changes in public attitudes toward mental disorders(Ineland, Jacobson, Renberg & Sjolander, 2008).

Attitudes towards mental disorders or towards people with mental disorders is not yet well explored in Nagaland, a small state in the north eastern part of India, that is inhabited largely by a group of tribal people called the Nagas. In the late nineteenth century, the American Christian missionaries arrived in this tribal area and started spreading Christianity and education, as a result of which many of the tribal customs and beliefs have been gradually replaced by western and Christian customs and beliefs. While the present day Nagas strive to maintain and preserve their tribal culture to some extent there is no denying the fact that many of them are largely influenced and driven by western culture. Their attitudes toward many aspects in life therefore reflect both their tribal origin and the adopted culture(s). In such a context, one often wonders as to what kind of attitudes they may have regarding mental disorders. While there are numerous studies about attitudes toward mental disorders reported from different parts of the world, there are not many reported studies about the attitude of Nagas toward mental disorders. One study by Longkumer and Borooah, 2013, reported misconceptions among a considerable proportion of participants with regard to causation and treatment of mental disorders and highlighted the role of educational level on attitudes toward mental disorders. However, the role of other demographic factors in the attitude of Nagas toward mental disorders is yet to be explored or reported. Studies in other parts of the world show mixed results regarding the influence of demographic variables on attitudes toward mental disorders (De Crane & Spielberg, 1981; Sellick & Goodean, 1985; Komoya, Good & Sherrod, 2000; AI-Adawi et al. …

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