Stigma About Mental Illness Among Multidisciplinary Health Care Providers in the Dominican Republic

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Abstract

Few studies have examined the attitudes of multidisciplinary health care providers toward mental illness, particularly in Latin America. The present study explored the attitudes of health care providers in the Dominican Republic (DR) toward persons with mental illness. Five Spanish-language focus groups were conducted in different regions of the DR with a purposive sample of 37 multidisciplinary health care providers and administrators. We found that among Dominican health care professionals mental illness was primarily defined as schizophrenia. Stigma was pervasive, but differed based on level of experience with persons with mental illness. People with mental illness were perceived as out of control and unable to conform to societal norms, resulting in fear and a lack of empathy among care providers. General practitioners felt unprepared to manage mental illness and unsupported by families and communities that also held stigmatizing attitudes. Providers considered government investment in mental health services imperative to improve access to treatment. Currently there are few options for intervention or rehabilitation for persons with severe mental illness. Strategies to reduce stigma among nonmental health care providers include governmental prioritization of mental health care, as well as formal training and clinical exposure to persons with mental illness in recovery.

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