Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Psychiatry and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Psychiatric stigma and discrimination in South Africa: perspectives from key stakeholders

Catherine O Egbe1*, Carrie Brooke-Sumner1, Tasneem Kathree1, One Selohilwe1, Graham Thornicroft2 and Inge Petersen1

  • * Corresponding author: Catherine O Egbe egbe@ukzn.ac.za

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Psychology, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, King George V Avenue, Durban 4041, South Africa

2 Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, De Crespigny Park, London, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:191  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-191

Published: 4 July 2014

Abstract

Background

Stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness remain barriers to help seeking and full recovery for people in need of mental health services. Yet there is scarce research investigating the experiences of psychiatric stigma on mental health service users in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study was therefore to explore the experiences of psychiatric stigma by service users in order to inform interventions to reduce such stigma and discrimination in one LMIC, namely South Africa.

Methods

Participants comprised a total of 77 adults aged above 18 years, made up of service providers including professional nurses (10), lay counsellors (20), auxiliary social workers (2); and service users (45).

Results

Psychiatric stigma was found to be perpetuated by family members, friends, employers, community members and health care providers. Causes of psychiatric stigma identified included misconceptions about mental illness often leading to delays in help-seeking. Experiencing psychiatric stigma was reported to worsen the health of service users and impede their capacity to lead and recover a normal life.

Conclusion

Media campaigns and interventions to reduce stigma should be designed to address specific stigmatizing behaviours among specific segments of the population. Counselling of families, caregivers and service users should include how to deal with experienced and internalized stigma.

Keywords:
Psychiatric stigma and discrimination; Mental health; Service users; Health care service providers