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Factors influencing stigma

A comparison of Greek-Cypriot and English attitudes towards mental illness in north London


Background: Stigma about mental illness continues to run deeply in most societies, creating considerable difficulties for patients and families. Previous research points to particularly strong stigmatising attitudes in Greek and Greek Cypriots (Triandis 1989). It is unclear whether these attitudes continue to be held by UK-born Greek Cypriots. Method: In an area of north London which contains a large Greek-Cypriot population, we compared the attitudes towards mental illness by first- and second-generation Greek Cypriots and those of white-English ethnicity. Seventy-nine white-English participants and 91 Greek Cypriots were interviewed using a snowballing method. We used the ‘Community Attitudes to Mental Illness scale’ (Taylor and Dear 1981) to measure attitudes to mental illness. In addition we used questions from Wolff et al. (1996c) to measure subjects' knowledge of mental illness and contact with people with mental health problems. Results: We found that Greek Cypriots had less contact with mentally ill people, were less knowledgeable about mental illness and hold more stigmatising views than their English participants. Contrary to our expectations, we found little difference in attitudes about mental illness held by first- and second-generation Greek Cypriots. Knowledge about mental illness was associated with a positive attitude towards people with mental health problems. Conclusions: Aggressive educational campaigns targeted at specific minority communities such as the Greek-Cypriot community are required to challenge the stigma attached to mental illness.

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Accepted: 9 April 2002

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Papadopoulos, C., Leavey, G. & Vincent, C. Factors influencing stigma. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 37, 430–434 (2002).

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  • Key words stigma – mental illness – attitudes – Greek Cypriot – English – London