Attitudes towards Patients with Mental Disorders among People of Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia: Cross-Sectional Study

Author(s): Kawthar Alsaleh, Hawraa Alsuroj, Marwah Alkhamis and Qasem Aljabr*

Background: Mental disorders are among the most stigmatizing conditions worldwide. The stigma towards people with mental health disorders became an extra burden to the patients in addition to the condition itself. Stigma of mental disorders is classified into: public stigma, institutional stigma, and self-stigma. The purpose of this study was to identify beliefs underlying mental disorders stigma and the general attitude of the community to develop efficient and well-targeted anti-stigma programs. Materials & Methods: It was a cross-sectional prospective descriptive study to determine the attitudes of general population in Al-Ahsa governorate, Saudi Arabia towards people with mental disorders conducted between Oct 2020 till Dec 2021. Subjects above the age of 18 years were the study population. Simple random sampling was used to select the participants from the population register of Al-Ahsa Municipal Corporation. The survey was conducted through structured interview done in public health centers that are distributed according to the new divisions of primary health care sectors in Al-Ahsa Health Cluster, using questionnaires which consisted of the information on the socio-demographic characteristics of the participants such as age, sex, educational qualification, marital status, area of living, history of mental illness if any and their share of giving care to mentally ill patients. The second part of the survey contained the questionnaires which were adopted from the Community Attitudes toward Mental Illness (CAMI) developed by Canadian researchers. The data were entered and analyzed by using the SPSS, version 25. Descriptive statistics was presented using counts, proportions (%), mean ± standard deviation whenever appropriate. The comparison of attitude between the demographic characteristics was performed using both uni-bivariate and multivariate analysis/binary logistic regression. A p-value cut off point of 0.05 at 95% CI was used to determine statistical significance. Overall stigma against patients with mental illness was computed by summing up the subscales. Higher scores indicated less stigma attitudes against patients with mental illness. Results: A total of 447 subjects participated in this study making the response rate of 97%. Majority of the participants were female (61%, N=274). Eighty 8% of the participants had no prior experience with mental illness, and approximately 32% had provided care to a mentally ill individual. A higher score of public stigmas toward mental illness was found in 50.31% of the participants. The mean scores for all the scales and subscales were as follows: CAMI (124.98 ± 15.59), SR (30.83 ± 4.06), AU (32.50 ± 4.0), BE (28.68 ± 3.27) and CMHI (32.97 ± 4.26). Age groups and marital status had a significant association (p= <0.05) with the attitude towards mentally ill patients. Conclusion: We presented data on population attitudes towards mental illness in Al-Ahsa district of Saudi Arabia. Unlike many studies, our study showed a comparatively better positive attitude of the population towards mentally ill patients. Half of the studied subjects had negative attitude. The response on the questionnaires on different subsets of attitude showed that the population’ attitude towards mentally sick patients co-existed with more benevolent tendencies such as support by more spending from taxes for their care. However, efforts should be made to address the negative attitude of the population by anti-stigma program. There is a need to build more benevolent attitudes. This can be achieved by improvements in the educational sector and increased literacy.

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