Cross-cultural comparison of mental illness stigma and help-seeking attitudes: a multinational population-based study from 16 Arab countries and 10,036 individuals

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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

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BackgroundThere is evidence that culture deeply affects beliefs about mental illnesses' causes, treatment, and help-seeking. We aimed to explore and compare knowledge, attitudes toward mental illness and help-seeking, causal attributions, and help-seeking recommendations for mental illnesses across various Arab countries and investigate factors related to attitudes toward help-seeking.MethodsWe carried out a multinational cross-sectional study using online self-administered surveys in the Arabic language from June to November 2021 across 16 Arab countries among participants from the general public.ResultsMore than one in four individuals exhibited stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness (26.5%), had poor knowledge (31.7%), and hold negative attitudes toward help-seeking (28.0%). ANOVA tests revealed a significant difference between countries regarding attitudes (F = 194.8, p < .001), knowledge (F = 88.7, p < .001), and help-seeking attitudes (F = 32.4, p < .001). Three multivariate regression analysis models were performed for overall sample, as well as Palestinian and Sudanese samples that displayed the lowest and highest ATSPPH-SF scores, respectively. In the overall sample, being female, older, having higher knowledge and more positive attitudes toward mental illness, and endorsing biomedical and psychosocial causations were associated with more favorable help-seeking attitudes; whereas having a family psychiatric history and endorsing religious/supernatural causations were associated with more negative help-seeking attitudes. The same results have been found in the Palestinian sample, while only stigma dimensions helped predict help-seeking attitudes in Sudanese participants.ConclusionInterventions aiming at improving help-seeking attitudes and behaviors and promoting early access to care need to be culturally tailored, and congruent with public beliefs about mental illnesses and their causations.




Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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Medicine and Health Sciences


Stigma, The Arab world, Help-seeking, Causal attributions, Mental illness

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Open Access