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Self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness: toward caregivers’ empowerment

Authors Girma E, Möller-Leimkühler AM, Dehning S, Mueller N, Tesfaye M, Froeschl G

Received 8 November 2013

Accepted for publication 28 November 2013

Published 15 January 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 37—43

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S57259

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Eshetu Girma,1,2 Anne Maria Möller-Leimkühler,2,3 Sandra Dehning,2,3 Norbert Mueller,2,3 Markos Tesfaye,4 Guenter Froeschl2,5

1Department of Health Education and Behavioral Sciences, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia; 2CIHLMU Center for International Health, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany; 3Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany; 4Department of Psychiatry, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia; 5Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

Background: In addition to economic and material burdens, caregivers of people with mental illness are exposed to psychosocial challenges. Self-stigma is among the psychological challenges that can be exacerbated by intrinsic and/or extrinsic factors. Caregivers’ self-stigma can negatively influence the patients' treatment and rehabilitation process. The objective of this study was to measure the level and correlates of self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.
Methods: An interviewer-administered cross-sectional study was conducted in the Jimma University Specialized Hospital Psychiatry Clinic in Ethiopia on a sample of 422 caregivers. Data were collected by trained nurses working in the clinic using a pretested questionnaire. Multivariate linear regression was performed to identify the correlates of self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.
Results: The majority (70.38%) of the caregivers were male. On a scale of 0 to 15, with 0 being low and 15 being high, the average self-stigmatizing attitude score was 4.68 (±4.11). A statistically significant difference in mean self-stigma score was found between urban and rural respondents (t=3.95, P<0.05). Self-stigma of caregivers showed significant positive correlation with perceived signs of mental illness (r=0.18, P<0.001), perceived supernatural explanations of mental illness (r=0.26, P<0.001), and perceived psychosocial and biological explanations of mental illness (r=0.12, P<0.01). The only independent predictor of caregivers' self-stigma was perceived supernatural explanation of mental illness (standardized β=0.22, P<0.001).
Conclusion: The tendency of caregivers to avoid being identified with the patients was observed. Low exposure to mental health information was also reported. Caregivers' self-stigma in this study was significantly correlated with perceived supernatural explanation of mental illness. Since caregivers' self-stigma may negatively influence patients' treatment-seeking, adherence, and rehabilitation processes, programs that enhance coping strategies by strengthening self-esteem and empowerment by health care providers and establish family support groups may be helpful to tackle self-stigma among caregivers of people with mental illness.

Keywords: self-stigma, internalized stigma, caregivers, mental illness

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