, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 619-623
Date: 29 May 2006

Perceptions of a South African schizophrenia population with regards to community attitudes towards their illness

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Abstract

Background

With the worldwide shift towards a more community-based psychiatric service delivery approach, stigma and the issues surrounding it have received much attention. However, very little South African data exist and the aim of our study was therefore to investigate the experience of internalized stigma in a South African schizophrenia population with specific emphasis on abuse as a form of stigmatization.

Methods

A total of 100 subjects at various stages of schizophrenic illness were subjected to a the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness scale (ISMI) that was modified to include six items focusing specifically on investigating the experience of stigmatization within the South African context.

Results

A high overall degree of stigmatization was perceived by most subjects, but not equally so for all ISMI areas. When looking at the modified items, 29% felt media-influence to be negative, this seemed to be specifically true for those with matriculation and higher as well as a home-language other than Afrikaans. Thirty nine percent indicated that they had been victims of physical abuse due to their mental illness, with the data suggesting that especially Xhosa-speaking patients, male subjects and those with more admissions and a longer duration of illness experienced this excessively.

Discussion

Our study confirmed a high overall degree of perceived stigmatization as well as suggesting some evidence for cultural influences on stigma. It was the first to provide South African data and as such can be regarded as central to our efforts in restructuring psychiatric services and clinical practices in a way that would minimize the effects of stigma and ultimately benefit our clients.