Background: World wide, there is plentiful evidence regarding the role
of stigma in mental illness, as well as the association between poverty
and mental illness. The experiences of stigma catalyzed by poverty
revolve around experiences of devaluation, exclusion, and disadvantage.
Although the relationship between poverty, stigma and mental illness has
been documented in high income countries, little has been written on
this relationship in low and middle income countries.
The paper describes the opinions of a range of mental health
stakeholders regarding poverty, stigma, mental illness and their
relationship in the Ugandan context, as part of a wider study, aimed at
exploring policy interventions required to address the vicious cycle of
mental ill-health and poverty.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs)
were conducted with purposefully selected mental health stakeholders
from various sectors. The interviews and FGDs were audio-recorded, and
transcriptions were coded on the basis of a pre-determined coding frame.
Thematic analysis of the data was conducted using NVivo7, adopting a
framework analysis approach.
Results: Most participants identified a reciprocal relationship between
poverty and mental illness. The stigma attached to mental illness was
perceived as a common phenomenon, mostly associated with local belief
systems regarding the causes of mental illness. Stigma associated with
both poverty and mental illness serves to reinforce the vicious cycle of
poverty and mental ill-health. Most participants emphasized a
relationship between poverty and internalized stigma among people with
mental illness in Uganda.
Conclusion: According to a range of mental health stakeholders in
Uganda, there is a strong interrelationship between poverty, stigma and
mental illness. These findings re-affirm the need to recognize material
resources as a central element in the fight against stigma of mental
illness, and the importance of stigma reduction programmes in protecting
the mentally ill from social isolation, particularly in conditions of
Ssebunnya, J.; Kigozi, F.; Lund, C.; Kizza, D.; Okello, E. Stakeholder perceptions of mental health stigma and poverty in Uganda. BMC International Health and Human Rights (2009) 9 (1) 5. [DOI: 10.1186/1472-698X-9-5]
Stakeholder perceptions of mental health stigma and poverty in Uganda.