2nd International Congress on Mental Health
Middlesex University, UK
Title: Nation variability within a European context: Social representations of 'mental health' and 'mental illness', and public perceptions towards persons labelled 'mentally ill'
Biography: Ragnhild Dalaker
Stigma emerges when stereotypes provide a base for discriminating against, rejecting or excluding those with a psychiatric label from society. Psychiatric stigma is a global health concern leading to widely applicable psychological, social and economic ramifications, potentially having detrimental effect on several aspects of a stigmatized persons’ life. A mixed methods approach exploring social representations of the labels ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’, plus social representations towards individuals labelled as ‘mentally ill’ was applied. Both psychiatric stigma and culture are multifaceted and complex concepts. By honouring more than one paradigm at a time, this has the potential to lead to newer, more holistic knowledge of complex real world problems in relation to their cultural context. Members of the public in Norway (n=125) and England (n=134) completed surveys consisting of; word associations and quantitative measures (level of familiarity, need for social distance and emotional reaction scale). Significant difference between the two samples was found in need for social distance towards schizophrenia but not towards depression. A qualitative Inductive Content Analysis was applied to the word association responses, results implied the Norwegian sample seemed to have a stronger concept of ‘mental health’ in line with the WHO’s conceptualization of this. Both samples brought up similar topics in ‘Mental illness’ associations, but sometimes subtle or striking variations were apparent through focus and emphasis in factors making up their social representations. Mirroring findings from lay conceptions of causation of mental illness, social causation seemed to be preferred by both national samples.