IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

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13/10/2008 - Press release

People suffering from mental disorders feel discriminated

This is the conclusion of an exhaustive worldwide epidemiological study that has included interviews of more than 80,000 adults.

The diagnosis and treatment alone of certain mental illnesses is not enough. In the future the way in which the mentally ill are perceived within their environment must also be taken into consideration. An international study and the first carried out at local level, has shown that one of the associated effects of mental illness is a feeling of shame and social discrimination that sufferers experience simply as a result of being ill.

This is the main conclusion from the results of this epidemiology study carried out by the World Mental Health Consortium in which Spanish researchers from the Municipal Institute for Medical Research (IMIM-Hospital del Mar), CIBER in Epidemiology and Public Health, Unitat Docent de Medicina Preventiva i Salut Pública IMAS-UPF-ASPB (Educational Unit of Preventative Medicine and Public Health) Hospital San Juan de Dios and the Instituto Carlos III contributed, together with experts from all over the world from research centres in Belgium, China, Colombia, France, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Ukraine and the United States. This study has also been published in the specialist journal “Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica”.

The study processed the data from questionnaires obtained through interviews conducted with over 80,000 adults representative of the general population. This included people suffering from mental disorders (excluding those suffering from schizophrenia or other psychotic illnesses) or any type of chronic mental disability that freely accepted to participate.

According to Jordi Alonso, coordinator of the research group in Health Services of the Municipal Institute of Medical Research (IMIM- Hospital del Mar) and first signatory of the article: "The analysis of the results shows that, on average, 13.5% of individuals with mental disorders feel stigmatised due to their illness; the incidence of which is more frequent in developing countries (22.1%). This stigmatisation doubles for people suffering from more than a mental disorder (e.g. anxiety and depression)". Nevertheless, the study also reveals that, on the contrary, people with any kind of chronic illness do not feel quite so socially stigmatised.

The mentally ill will suffer negative consequences both in their quality of life and for the management of their illness as a result of the feeling of social exclusion or discrimination that they experience. Therefore, the authors demand that greater attention be paid to this universal problem that affects those suffering from mental illnesses.

This study is the first that, carried out with a representative sample of the general population, evaluates the stigma associated with mental disorders from the perceptions of those who suffer from said disorders.

Reference article: “Association of perceived stigma and mood and anxiety disorders: results from the World Mental Health Surveys”. Acta Psychiatr Scad 2208: 118: 305-314.

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