Public attitudes toward mental illness in Africa and North America

  • KO St. Louis
  • PM Roberts
Keywords: Social stigma, Mental disorders, Language, Developing countries, Developed countries


Objective: Public attitudes toward mental illness in two widely disparate cultures, Canada and Cameroon, were compared using an experimental version of a survey instrument, the Public Opinion Survey of Human Attributes–Mental Illness or POSHA–MI(e).
Method: 120 respondents rated POSHA–MI(e) items relating to mental illness on 1-9 equal appearing interval scales: 30 in English and 30 in French in both Cameroon and Canada. Additionally, 30 matched, monolingual English, American respondents were
included as a comparison group.

Result: In Canada (and in the USA), attitudes were generally more positive and less socially stigmatizing toward mental illness than in Cameroon. Differences between countries were much larger than differences between language groups.

Conclusion: Consistent with other research, beliefs and reactions of the public regarding mental illness reflect stigma, especially in Cameroon. Cultural influences on these public attitudes are more likely important than language influences. Results of this field test of the POSHA–MI(e), documenting differences in public attitudes toward mental illness in two divergent cultures, support its further development.

Keywords: Social stigma; Mental disorders; Language; Developing countries; Developed countries


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1994-8220