Community perceptions and beliefs about mental illness. A case of Lira municipality
Akello, Agatha Christie
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Community perceptions and beliefs can potentially influence the way persons with mental illness are treated even after they have recovered. It is for this reason that the study explored community understanding and awareness, beliefs, attitudes and misconceptions about mental illness in Lira Municipality. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to explore the beliefs and perceptions of 67 randomly selected respondents and purposively selected key informants respectively. The study explored people’s beliefs about the causes of mental illness, preferred treatment options and associated attitudes. Study findings indicated that mental illness was highly linked to drug abuse and overthinking. In very few instances, mental illness was associated with witchcraft and demonic possession. Mental illness was misconceived to be incurable and persons with mental illness perceived to be incapable of leading normal lives- even after recovery, which further propagates stigma. Young people harbored a more positive attitude towards persons with mental illness compared to the elderly. Fasting and prayer were highly considered and preferred as modes of treatment, while modern medication was considered costly and rehabilitation highly acceptable to respondents with some good level of formal education. Given the relatively low level of awareness of mental illness in Lira Municipality coupled with mixed attitudes towards persons with mental illness and misconceptions, this study recommends implementation of mental health awareness and sensitization campaigns by both local and central government.