Attitudes of Malaysian general hospital staff towards patients with mental illness and diabetes

Minas, Harry; Zamzam, Ruzanna; Midin, Marhani; Cohen, Alex
January 2011
BMC Public Health;2011 Supplement 4, Vol. 11 Issue Suppl 4, p317
Academic Journal
Background: The context of the study is the increased assessment and treatment of persons with mental illness in general hospital settings by general health staff, as the move away from mental hospitals gathers pace in low and middle income countries. The purpose of the study was to examine whether general attitudes of hospital staff towards persons with mental illness, and extent of mental health training and clinical experience, are associated with different attitudes and behaviours towards a patient with mental illness than towards a patients with a general health problem - diabetes. Methods: General hospital health professionals in Malaysia were randomly allocated one of two vignettes, one describing a patient with mental illness and the other a patient with diabetes, and invited to complete a questionnaire examining attitudes and health care practices in relation to the case. The questionnaires completed by respondents included questions on demographics, training in mental health, exposure in clinical practice to people with mental illness, attitudes and expected health care behaviour towards the patient in the vignette, and a general questionnaire exploring negative attitudes towards people with mental illness. Questionnaires with complete responses were received from 654 study participants. Results: Stigmatising attitudes towards persons with mental illness were common. Those responding to the mental illness vignette (N = 356) gave significantly lower ratings on care and support and higher ratings on avoidance and negative stereotype expectations compared with those responding the diabetes vignette (N = 298). Conclusions: Results support the view that, in the Malaysian setting, patients with mental illness may receive differential care from general hospital staff and that general stigmatising attitudes among professionals may influence their care practices. More direct measurement of clinician behaviours than able to be implemented through survey method is required to support these conclusions.


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