Main Article Content
Knowledge and beliefs a community holds about mental illness, has remarkable impact on help seeking path to care and stigmatizing attitudes expressed towards the mentally ill.
Aims: This study examines causal attributions, the perceptions and attitudes towards mental illness and the help seeking behaviour of a community in the south-south region of Nigeria.
Materials and Methods: This is cross sectional descriptive study which was conducted among residents of Ekom Iman community in Akwa Ibom State in the South-South region of Nigeria between March, 2019 and July, 2019. Multistage sampling technique was employed to select the study participants. Causal belief, attitude toward mental illness and help seeking behaviour were assessed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: A total of 130 respondents participated in the study. The average age of respondents was 31.62±8.2 years, consisting of 64.4% males and 35.6% females. Majority, 74.6% had secondary education. Poor knowledge of mental illness and stigmatizing attitudes are common. Most of the respondents prefer to keep a high social distance from the mentally ill and are unwilling to maintain close social contacts with them expressed as refusal to share a room (74.7%), marry (92.5%), keeping friendship with them (66.4%). Many believe psychoactive substance abuse (86.2%), brain illnesses/trauma (55.4%) and supernatural factors (72.6%) are etiologic to mental illness. Most respondents considered faith healers (64.3%) and orthodox medical professionals (30.8%) as first choices of treatment and the options best able to treat them.
Conclusion: Causal beliefs of mental illness affects help seeking behavior. Poor knowledge and exposure to mental illness was common. Attitudes towards mental illness were generally negative and stigmatizing. Multidisciplinary community interventions are required to ensure high social acceptance and preference for orthodox professional treatment of mental illness.
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