Stigma of mental illness in India linked to poverty

March 5, 2015 by Neil Schoenherr, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

The stigma surrounding people with severe mental illness in India leads to increased poverty among them, especially women, according to new research led by Jean-Francois Trani, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Trani and fellow researchers, including Jill Kuhlberg, doctoral student and research associate at the Brown School, studied more than 1,000 patients and controls in the department of a hospital in New Delhi from 2011-12, conducting interviews during hospital visits and at homes.

The results, "Mental Illness, Poverty and Stigma in India: A Case–Control Study," are published in the journal The BMJ Open.

"Mental professionals must incorporate an understanding of multidimensional stressors as well as address family and community dynamics," Trani wrote in the paper. "Our findings go beyond medical and public health and link mental health to international development."

Trani and his team found that public stigma and poverty linked to mental illness were "pervasive and intertwined." Assumptions by many that mentally ill people are violent and unable to work contribute to their unemployment.

Stigma associated with limits women from fulfilling family and social roles, increasing discrimination against them, the study found.

Explore further: Fathers with mental illness deserve better than stigma

More information: "Mental illness, poverty and stigma in India: a case–control study." BMJ Open 2015;5:2 e006355 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006355

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