Perception of and attitude towards mental illness among residents of a community in south- south Nigeria


  • Johnson OE
  • Benson BM



Mental illness, community, perception, stigma, attitude, Nigeria


Context: The burden of mental illness is increasing steadily and cuts across every community.
Objectives: This study was carried out to determine the perception and attitude towards mental illness among residents of a community in Nigeria.
Study Design: A cross sectional descriptive study was conducted among residents of Obio Offot community in southern Nigeria in June 2016. Participants were selected using cluster sampling method and data collected with semi-structured, interviewer administered questionnaires and analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20. Level of significance was set at 5%.
Results: A total of 272 respondents participated in the study. The average age of respondent was 29.3 ± 10.14 years, consisting of 52.6% males and 47.4% females. Majority, 72.1% had tertiary education. Almost half of the respondents, 46.0% felt mental illness could not be cured. Various attitudes of the respondents towards the treated mentally ill included shame, 81.3%, unwillingness to share rooms,64.7%, and avoiding all contacts, 41.9%. Majority, 76.5% and 73.5% respectively, considered them as public nuisances and mentally retarded. Identified options of care included psychiatric hospital, 89.3% and church, 72.8%. Unwillingness to share room and perceiving the treated mentally ill as dangerous increased with literacy (p<0.05) The commonest perceived causes of mental illness were substance abuse, 92.3%, brain disease 86.4%  and traumatic events  59.2%.
Conclusion: Despite the high level of literacy among the respondents, there were many stigmatizing attitudes towards the treated mentally ill.  A multi dimensional approach is needed towards ensuring social acceptance of the treated mentally ill.

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