Attitudes To Mental Illness

Read Complete Research Material


Attitudes to Mental Illness

Attitudes to Mental Illness


Mental (psychiatric) illness can be defined as a medical disorder whereby an individual experiences mild to severe disturbances in either of his or her thinking, perception, feeling (emotion) and behaviour, which can significantly impair the person's ability to cope with life's ordinary demands and routines such as ability to work, to get along with others, and to enjoy life. On the other hand, attitudes are our likes and dislike i.e. our favourable or unfavourable evaluation of and reaction to things including people.

The psychiatric literature is replete with studies of attitudes to mental illness and mentally ill persons. The results of these studies have always shown that the general public is generally inadequately informed about mental illness. The prevalent attitudes across most cultures to the mentally ill are therefore, negative irrespective of being literate or otherwise. These attitudes are usually based on unreliable, invalid, and unstandardized identification of mental illness, i.e. stereotyped preconceptions passed from one generation to the other.


The sensationalized "popular" image of the mentally ill includes being dirty, bad, worthless and malevolent. The mentally ill persons are generally perceived by the public as violent, dangerous and unpredictable. As a result of these, they suffer the agonies of stigmatization, discrimination and prejudice by the public. In many cases, the people prefer to distance themselves from them. Research revealed further that, attributing ones problems to mental illness is associated with reduced subjective quality of life and lower self esteem. These negatively influence any effort to become a productive member of the society. The public will persistently use the label of "mentally ill" even when the designated person is engaged in many of the things taken for granted among "normal" persons of their age and culture(Fitzpatrick, 2004).

Subsequently, these negative attitudes instil fear in sufferers of mental illness so that many of them deny their illness and continue to suffer, while a few people who sought treatment are subjected to discrimination at work and/or eventually lose their jobs. The latter is further supported by the Nigerian constitution that disqualifies individuals from holding high public posts if "adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind" i.e. mentally ill. In Japan, as recently as the 1980s, sufferers of any mental illness were disqualified from holding many, if not most of jobs; right to vote, right to seek public office or holding a driver's licence . Similarly in the United States of America, politicians used to be disqualified from contesting elected offices for reasons of mental illness(Higgs, 1998).

Unfortunately, in some families the mentally ill are kept in inappropriate places, and some relatives abandon them outright; leaving such individuals to become vagrants on the streets. Some relatives even contemplate poisoning their mentally ill in order to put an early end to what they consider as the family disgrace and embarrassment that these sick ones constitute to them.

Thus, as we can see, the mentally ill individuals are deprived of their fundamental human ...
Related Ads