ATTITUDES TOWARD MENTAL ILLNESS: Its Relation To Contact And Ethnocultural Background

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It has been suggested that public attitudes toward mental illness have improved in recent years and one of the measured variables has been the acceptance of contact with persons suffering from mental illness. We measured self-reported contact with the mentally ill in a sample of union workers in New Jersey and compared the results with a similar previous study which was done in Baltimore. There was no evidence of significant denial of contact with the mentally ill. The New Jersey sample as a whole showed approximately the same willingness to report contact as the Baltimore group and our results tend to confirm the earlier findings.

In the population studied, we also considered the possibility that one of the factors determining attitude was the ethnocultural background of respondents. We examined attitudes and reported contacts in each ethnocultural group of our population and discovered considerable differences. We discussed the different variables which may have resulted in the negative attitudes of certain minority subcultures. We suggest that mental health planners should be sensitive to the predominant ethnicity of the community to which a patient is discharged.

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