|dc.description.abstract||Introduction: Stigma is a mark of disgrace or discredit that sets a person aside from others. It is
a term of prejudice based on negative stereotyping. It is based on the perception of a difference
which is ultimately linked to negative traits. The stigma of severe mental illness exacerbates the
patients' burden caused by the illness. It plays a negative role at every stage of the illness from
presentation and diagnosis to treatment and outcome. It makes many people reluctant to seek
help and less likely to cooperate with treatment and slows recovery. Because of this, The Mental
Health act (1989) established The Kenya Board of Mental Health to among other objectives,
address mental health related stigma.
Objective: To obtain information on the current level of knowledge, attitude and practices
regarding mental health in the general population in Kenya. This study aims at generating
information in this field with special focus on stigma in the general population to fill the current
knowledge gap, compare results with similar studies and make appropriate recommendations.
Setting: The study was conducted at Kamburu sublocation in Central Province, Kenya.
Sampling: The sublocation was divided into eight clusters and four of them were randomly
selected. Consecutive sampling was done till the minimum sample size per cluster was attained.
Methodology: The study design was crossectional descriptive in nature targeting 384 male and
female household heads who consented to participate in the study. Data was collected using a
researcher designed social demographic questionnaire and the Office for National Statistics
(ONS) questionnaire on perceptions about mental illness.
Data handling: Data was edited, coded and entered into a computer. It was analyzed using the
Statistical Package for Social sciences version 12 programme and the results were presented in
form of descriptive statistics and tables.
Results: Three hundred and eighty four respondents were interviewed. Their ages raged from18
years to 74 years. The mean age was 40 years, median age of 37 years, and the mode and
standard deviation were 35 and 14 respectively. One hundred and nighty four (50.5%) were
males while 49.5% were females. The male to female ratio was 1:l.Majority of the respondents
were Catholics (50%). Protestants were 48% while the rest were either Muslims (0.5%)or had no
religious inclination( 1%).Majority of the respondents were married(95%) while the rest were
either widowed(2%) separated(I%), divorced(I%)or were cohabiting(0.3%).Most respondents
had attained secondary school level of education(42%) while the rest had primary school
level(29%),tertiary level(9%) and 19% of them had no formal education .Almost half of the
respondents knew some one in their neighborhood who had mental illness(43%).They described
the character of these people by the nature of speech(34%), abnormal behavior(34%),
violence(23%) and grooming (9%).Very few of the respondents (13%) had lived with a mentally
ill person. Majority had never had mental health related information (65%) and the few who had
(35%) got it from radio (47%), health worker (36%), newspapers (15%) and from school
(2%).Most respondents thought that mental illness is caused by psychoactive substances
(44% ).Majority of those interviewed thought medical treatment is necessary for the mentally ill
while 48% thought prayers could treat mental illness. Negative attitudes towards mentally ill
people were highly prevalent since 60% thought that these people are dangerous, unpredictable
(56%) and hard to talk to (58%). Respondents in the over sixty years age group were more likely
to seek help in religious facilties or from traditional healers.
The same trend was observed in the respondents' attitude that the mentally ill are processed by
demons. There was no statistically significant difference between the various age groups on their
attitude that the mentally ill are dangerous while those with post primary education were less
likely to believe so. Those who had lived with a mentally ill person held more positive opinions
about mental illness and were also more likely to have had information on mental health issues.
Those who had had such information were less likely to hold negative opinion on mental illness.
Conclusion: Mental health related stigma is prevalent in the population that was studied. Most
people in this community have never had information on mental health related issues. The health
seeking behavior in this population is influenced positively by age, level of education, and
whether one had been enlightened on mental health issues.
Recommendations: It is necessary to increase public education on mental health to reduce
stigma towards mental illness and to influence mental health seeking behavior in the community
positively. Health workers should be more proactive in educating their patients and also use
other fora to impart this information to the public.||en_US
Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, ; bDepartment of Mental Health, School of Medicine,
Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya||