Monday, January 16, 2012

Myths, beliefs and perceptions about mental disorders and health-seeking behavior in Delhi, India

Objectives: To assess the perceptions, myths and beliefs about mental disorders and health seeking behavior in the India. Methods: A cross sectional study was carried out with a sample of 436 subjects (360 subjects from urban and rural communities of Delhi; 76 medical professionals working in different organizations in Delhi). Pre-tested interview schedule consisting items on perceptions, myths and beliefs about causes, treatment and health seeking behavior for mental disorders was used. The collected data was statistically analyzed using computer software package Epi-info. Appropriate tests of significance were applied to detect any significant association. Results: The mental disorders could be because of loss of semen or vaginal secretion (Rural=33.9%; Urban=8.6%, professional 1.3%), less sexual desire (Rural =23.7%; Urban = 18%), excessive masturbation (Rural=15.3%; Urban=9.8%), gods punishment for their past sins (Rural=39.6%; Urban=20.7%; professional 5.2%), and polluted air (Rural=51.5%; Urban=11.5%; professional 5.2%). More people (37.7%) living in joint families than nuclear families (26.5%) believed that sadness and unhappiness cause mental disorders. 34.8% of rural and 18% of the urban subjects believed that children do not get mental disorders that means they have conception of adult oriented mental disorders. 40.2% in rural, 33.3% in urban areas and 7.9% professional believed that mental illnesses are untreatable. Many believed that psychiatrists whom they think are eccentric (Rural=46.1%; urban 18.4%; professional 37.9%), tend to know nothing and do nothing (Rural=21.5%; Urban 13.7%; professional 3.9) while 74.4% of rural, 37.1% of urban and 17.6% professional subjects do not know that the psychiatry is a branch of medicine. More people in rural areas than urban area think that keeping fasting or a faith healer can cure them from mental illnesses where as 11.8% of medical professional believed it. Most of the people like to go to someone close who can listens to their problems when they are said and anxious. Only 25.3 in rural and 34.7% in rural population would like to go to psychiatrist when they or their family members are suffering from mental illness. Conclusion: This study concluded that the myths and misconceptions are prevalent significantly more in rural areas than urban and medical professionals and need to be communicated to change their behavior for positive attitude to mental disorders so that health seeking behavior can improve.

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