Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
KOHN, Robert; SHARMA, David; CAMILLERI, Christopher P. and LEVAV, Itzhak. Attitudes towards mental illness in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.7, n.3, pp. 148-154. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892000000300002.
Little is known about the perception of mental illness in the English-speaking Caribbean. This study was conducted in 1995 to determine the attitudes, knowledge, and help-seeking practices for emotional disorders in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Two groups in Dominica were surveyed: 67 community leaders, consisting of nurses, teachers, and police officers; and 135 community members grouped into five socioeconomic strata that were collapsed to three for the analysis. All the respondents were asked to identify and suggest management of individuals with psychosis, alcoholism, depression, and childhood hyperactivity, as depicted in case vignettes. The person in the psychosis vignette was diagnosed as suffering from mental illness by 84.0% of the leaders and by 71.2% of the community members. However, in each of the three other vignettes, fewer than 30% of the respondents thought that mental illness was present. The person with alcoholism was viewed as having a serious problem by only slightly more than half of the respondents. Fewer than half of the respondents thought that the individuals with depression or hyperactivity had serious problems. The community leaders did somewhat worse in recognizing mental illness than did the community members. Respondents were most likely to refer a family member with emotional problems to a medical practitioner. In conclusion, education about mental health problems is needed in Dominica. Especially disconcerting was the lack of knowledge on mental illness among nurses, teachers, and police officers, that is, professionals directly involved in the pathway to care.